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Burma and a Task Unfinished: Considering the Options

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Burma and its political conditions are documented frequently in newspapers, websites and blogs across the world and the democratic movements in Burma are supported worldwide, yet despite all the social support, nothing concrete seems to be happening on the political front. An effective political and social agenda would be necessary for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the transfer of power to her political party. There are two possible options that could now be considered for the successful democratic transition in Burma. One is a political and international option of possible military action against the junta and the other is a social and regional option, a movement led by the Burmese people and these options don't have to be mutually exclusive either.

The Democratic Voice of Burma has reported on monk leaders and student activists being continually imprisoned and given long term prison sentences. The junta has been cracking down on all forms of freedom of speech and human rights initiatives by monks, students, support groups and local people for allegedly 'inciting public unrest'. Ironically though the Burmese junta itself is the greatest and only source of public unrest in the nation and has been holding on to power illegally and it is high time that the world leaders, the United Nations and other organizations take action against such a criminal government. There has been no definite and concrete action on the part of world leaders to free Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters and China and Russia have consistently downplayed the Burma issue as regional rather than an international problem. China and Russia seem to have their own political and diplomatic interests in maintaining a military government in Burma but this is against the interests of Burmese people and all supporters of democracy.

Among the recent resolutions passed by the UN on the situation in Burma, the 28 February 2008 Resolution adopted by the General Assembly, reports on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar. The Report mentions that the UN General Assembly:

1. Strongly Condemns the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar; and

2. Expresses Concern on the systematic violation of human rights and fundamental freedom of the people of Myanmar.

The Report also calls upon the military government of Myanmar to:

  1. Participate in a dialogue with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights;
  2. Put an end to military operations on civilian targets; and
  3. Participate in a political transition process engaging in discussions with ethnic minorities, and other political groups including Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

As of now it seems highly unlikely that the military government of Burma would engage in any form of dialogue with the UN or suddenly stop its abuse on Burmese people unless a very strong and strict joint statement is released by the UN and the world leaders to either free Aung San Suu Kyi and all other pro-democracy activists or face dire consequences. Since the Burmese junta understands only the language of violence, maybe world leaders and the US should consider a military operation as a last option to free Aung San Suu Kyi and the other prisoners. Aung San Suu Kyi herself is a follower of Gandhian principles and has opposed all forms of violence in her political struggle.

Yet the military junta does not seem to understand her language of non-violence, so there could be only two possible solutions:

1. A Mass Uprising in Burma - by the people of Burma and this has to be considerably large and consistent until the junta is left unable to control the situation any further. The uprising by the people would need the support of human rights groups, religious groups and activists all around the world and there has to be a systematic call to this kind of revolutionary change. Strong regional participation by the Burmese people should be complemented by international support. This of course requires effective leadership inside and outside Burma and proper coordination of all Burmese democracy support groups and activists, so that there is a force of 'collective action'. Violent resistance on the part of the junta is inevitable but this could be defeated if the collective action of the supporters of democracy is strong enough.

2. The Military Option - This seems to be the only effective political and international option that could be considered as a last option if dialogues are no longer possible with the Burmese junta and if a social uprising also fails. US and other world leaders could use military force to oust the Burmese military government and hand over power to the pro- democracy movement of Aung San Suu Kyi. This again has its pitfalls as military action results in civilian deaths as well and this is one option that many supporters of democracy wouldn't want.

Considering the need for peace and stability in the region, the first 'social' path to democracy seems to be a better option and the Burmese people and international activist groups, are almost working towards it, yet the strong condemnation and action by world leaders and the UN are long overdue.

It is hoped that the hushed and directionless speeches on Burma by world leaders and organizations including the UN, the US and EU governments will be replaced by stronger and clearer statements with promise of concrete actions for democracy in the region.

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Saberi Roy is a writer and independent analyst and publishes articles on a wide range of subjects including psychology, politics, social issues,trends, religion, sciences and philosophy. Her work is quoted and republished extensively and is also (more...)

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