Updates from Burma

Maybe few noticed it, but the Junta fired on children, as well. There might be not that significant, but reports are coming out that Burmese generals are confronting each other. But today’s news is that the regime has imposed a total media and information blackout, closing down all cyber cafes, cutting off internet access and searching houses in search of ‘enemy propaganda’. More updates soon.

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4 Responses to Updates from Burma

  1. Updates from Burma

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  2. Ramesh Manghirmalani, California says:

    Several key aspects of the situation in Burma/Myanmar remain a mystery to me. What exactly are the demands of the protesters? Do they have an organized political party able and willing to take over control from the military? Do they have the guns to stand off with the military in a direct confrontation? So far it seems like the protests are led by unarmed monks. They face a military dictatorship with no desire to stand down and little compunction to use force. Given this simple calculus, the protesters will lose as they did in 1988. What could possibly compel the government to cede power, or to allow free and fair elections, as President Bush seems to be calling for?

    The only plausible way this is going to happen, it seems to me, is if the army kills enough monks to generate sufficient outrage among the general population that they either take up arms against the army, or cause a mutiny among the troops, or a coup from within the army’s ranks by pro-democracy generals. The motivations behind any of these would have to outweigh the fear of reprisal and violence sure to be returned.

    The bottom line is, this is going to get much worse before it gets better. Hundreds or even thousands of monks and other civilians will likely be arrested, tortured or killed before there is any chance of the junta stepping down.
    China has consistently implemented a policy of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. As Burma’s neighbours, we hope to see stability and economic development in Burma. We hope and believe that the government and people of Burma will properly deal with the current problem.

    With friends like these, the people of Burma don’t need enemies. China’s position, while regrettable, is understandable. If I’d shot hundreds of people in Tianamen square, I’d be relcutant to condemn another nation’s massacre. If a 1988-esque crackdown comes, you can bet the international community will be hamstrung by nations all too willing to tolerate oppression at home and in their backyard.

  3. Ramesh Manghirmalani, California says:

    Why can’t India play a role as Big Brothers in Asia

  4. Ramesh Manghirmalani, California says:

    India’s volatile neighborhood just got more complicated with the mass protests by Buddhists monks in Myanmar against the military junta. Myanmar has long remained isolated in the eyes of the world and the military dictatorship has maintained its only contacts with India and China both for trade and counter-terrorism alliances. New Delhi’s association with Rangoon goes back decades with prominent pro-democracy advocate Aung Sang Su Kyi residing and studying in India for many years and more recently with the pact between the two countries to counter terror outfits that have led the insurgency in the North East. The latest protests, which have claimed nine lives officially, seem to be heading for a showdown reminiscent of 1988 when students took to the streets asking for an end to the military dictatorship. Recent media reports showed the military leader Than Shwe’s son’s wedding ceremony which was lavish even by Western standards and which further outraged the citizens of Myanmar, and helped in precipitating the protests we see today. The United Nations along with the EU have out rightly condemned the heavy handed actions of the junta and more significantly urged India and China to play a larger role in influencing the military to back down. However, this is as far as the UN and EU have gone without spelling out what exactly they expect of India and China as mediators in the fragile state of affairs in Myanmar.

    India’s response to the Burmese crisis has been muted and rather ambiguous. The foreign ministry’s spokesperson only spoke of the need for “national reconciliation” and a return to peace without stating what India would like to see as a logical outcome. As highlighted, India finds itself in the same Tibet syndrome and more recently in the Katmandu syndrome where it wants to please all players in the crisis without taking sides and in this process of egalitarianism lose out to the Chinese or worst still lose the faith of the people of the crisis ridden country. In the case of Tibet, India had given shelter to the Dalai Lama and fought for a free Tibet for many years. This policy was retracted as a quid pro quo with the Chinese to settle the border dispute, whereby we would recognize Tibet as an “autonomous region” in exchange for China’s recognition of Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin as part of India. What we got was a clever ploy by the Chinese, who still seem to dispute the Arunachal and Aksai question while we merrily recognize Tibet as part of China. We not only lost the confidence of the fledging free Tibet movement, we virtually surrendered our Tibetan trump card against the Chinese.

    Then again in Nepal, the removal of the King was received guardedly, while at the same time Indian Communists were welcoming the Maoists as the savior for the Himalayan kingdom. Our backing of the Nepali Congress while at the same time the desire to see the King as the ceremonial head of state, sent mixed signals to the Nepalese. Not only were there street protests against India, unprecedented in living memory, but many native Nepalese opening targeted the Madhesi’s and people of the Terai region for their pro-India views. This unfortunate turmoil in India’s sphere of influence has been due to our weak leadership and even weaker foreign office. While we put all our eggs on the nuclear deal basket, we keep forgetting that if India were to truly emerge as a superpower it will need to play a leadership role in own backyard before we set out to conquer the world. India has never indulged in the internal affairs of other countries (though others point out to Nepal and Bangladesh as examples of India’s meddling ways) this mantra for foreign policy has gone too far, and now has reached such a stage that no neighbor considers our views seriously. We seem to repeating the same mistake with our myopic view on the Myanmar protests.

    The generals of the Junta in Myanmar recognize that India needs their support to eliminate the insurgency in the North East. They use that as bargaining chips to ensure their continuity in office. But it is also true that the tacit recognition India is providing to the junta gives it some semblance of recognition in the world. If India were to strengthen its borders and then actively support the pro-democracy movement the junta will feel the heat, as will the Chinese. With a strengthened border, the junta will have to deal with the insurgents on their home soil rather than exporting them to Indian territory as has happened over the decades. But for this to happen, India will need to be bold. We have already missed by the bus by not taking an active role as soon as the crisis broke out, now with the UN and EU asking us to intervene; it seems any toughening of India’s stand will seem forced upon us rather than India taking a leadership role to resolve the crisis. That said it is till not too late for us to act and to ensure that the demonstrations end peacefully and with a move towards democracy. China will bargain before it comes down heavily on the junta, but if India were to show its seriousness on resolving the issue, the Chinese may feel compelled to do its bit. It’s a long shot but the current passivity doesn’t bode well for India. India has been a champion of democracy and peace and there is no better opportunity to prove that tenet than to help relieve a deprived nation from the heavy hand of a junta.

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