After my last post some of my friends have emailed me some great questions and comments. They are smarter than me but social media illiterate. Paul, my good friend in Colorado actually confessed that he had no idea how to post a comment to my blog. Hopeless genius.
So I’m going to post those questions and some thoughts in reply here. I would appreciate any feedback and am grateful that I am not an island when it comes to Burma; thousands of people care and are informed and recognize MLK’s quote as a quote for us all, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“I would avoid direct name and blame calling of Burma’s present incumbent leader as a ‘war criminal’; he may be so and likely is, but I think a better approach is to call for the appropriate international tribunals and due process, lest we simply become the name callers without a direction and recommended next steps. I recall being in the UK at the time when trade embargoes were lifted against South Africa; that lifting of sanctions is recognized as being instrumental in opening dialogue, diplomatic channels, and free trade that helped give momentum to the abolition of apartheid. We may not like it, but idealism isn’t the way the world works, even though I would like it too. Is there a way that we can work with the current situation in Burma, including those we may not like or would wish to work with, to improve things for all? I don’t know. The wheat and the chaff always co-exist…especially within me. He may be ‘our’ enemy, but he is also becoming the darling of the west and of ASEAN countries too….money always talks loudly.”
Thanks for this. I do understand the need to be tempered with my words and not just be a name caller. After all these years and the daily dose of lies coming from his desk (while his forces kill my friends) I don’t know what else to do. He is a war criminal. It is well documented that under Thein Seins
command, 45 separate documented cases of rape in Shan State alone, 40 years leading the charge to displace civilians, enforcer of the 4 cuts policy in Karen State (therefore responsible for thousands of deaths), and an audacious liar to the world community. Did you know he was the commanding general after cyclone Nargis, responsible for blocking aid and relief access to the survivors?
I’m not trying to leave out the possibility of change and reconciliation, but the truth is that he is a criminal. It may be more productive to focus on what we hope for (international tribunal and ICC action) in our publications. I’ll seriously consider that Paul. It’s been 20 years since I started working with the victims of this regimes abuse and being moderate barely gets a hearing. Even releasing major reports about the crimes seems to have little impact.
(b) No private property in Burma: property rights is nine-tenths of the law (Blackstone, I think, probably a wrong attribution)…might suggest that the inclusion of clear, equitable and defended property rights are an integral part of the new Burma constitution. How do we help with that?
I agree that we need to keep calling on the regime to establish just laws and a process that includes the stakeholders- the people. Until the rule of law is established and the constitution reformed by a participatory process there will be no substantial changes. I think this is why Suu Kyi is silent on the human rights issues, because she wants to work her way into political power with constitution reform as a primary agenda item. It’s not on the agenda now.
(c) What should be done…? We won’t change the fundamentals of free market economics and the jungle of capitalism by throwing stones only. What’s our alternative, why is it better, who benefits, how is it defended, how is it monitored, how does the wealth of Burma bring peace, fairness, rights for all – I think that’s what has to be outlined in the piece too – the better way and some very creative solutions. Here’s my pathetic attempt; (i) companies engaging in trade in Burma must complete a full human rights analysis of the effects of their investment and trade (ii) companies investing in Burma must complete a detailed environmental impact assessment (iii) companies running operations in Burma must make a full assessment of worker conditions, hiring practices and inclusivity of all ethnic groups….these sorts of things maybe…?
Yes! If companies did this they would be a constructive force for change, instead of further enabling the dictatorial government. My experience suggests that those concerns are not primary in company conscience or diplomatic relations but secondary.
Dick Cheney was the CEO of Haliburton when he negotiated and agreed to construct an oil pipeline that divided Mon state, killed and enslaved thousands of people, and displaced even more. When asked how he felt about that on CNN, he didn’t defend himself but said that his job was to earn shareholders money, and “that’s what I did”
How can we propose your recommendations in the context of the historical lack of will?
What do I propose as an alternative? The cessation of violence would be a good start. But a process and steps are something I’ll have to chew on a bit more Paul. There are many advocates who write on this that are more informed and articulate than me. Lets start with looking at what Fortify Rights has to say, and what Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Burma expert, Ben Rogers has to say.
John (name changed to protect identity) wrote:
Superbly done! I like it a lot and don’t see it as controversial.
The one thing I thought was since the SPDC regularly uses proxy armies to do the worst of the dirty work, it allows for denial. It also leaves room for the naysayers to counter what you’ve written.
When Joe (name changed) and I were in northern Shan State, (and visited the village surrounded by opium fields) everyone voiced their hatred for the KDA (Kachin Democratic Army) and had no experience with the SPDC.
On a somewhat related note, you and I need to go to that village. Preferably during opium harvest. There’s a story there that nobody knows.
John, the proxy army issue is one that a lot of people don’t know about. In a nutshell, the regime bribes weak members of the population they want to dominate, arms them and puts a uniform on them with a local branding, and says the fighting that happens (under their own command) is done amongst themselves. Classical divide and conquer. By last count there were 14 proxy armies fighting as though they are independent, though controlled entirely or partially by the regime.
I love your passion brother. Lets do something about the injustice. Lets let those people in Burma know they are loved and not forgotten.
And now friends, I close my channel to focus on decorating our Christmas tree and celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace. He is our hope. Merry Christmas.