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Myanmar Generals Should be Tried for Cyclone Victims Genocide: Joel Brinkley/ Stanford University

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Their catastrophic indifference to cyclone survivors has unnecessarily killed tens of thousands more; introduction by Ashin Mettacara, Burmese Buddhist Monk living in Sri Lanka. Brinkley's understanding of Myanmar is much deeper than most journalists. Joel Brinkley is a professor of journalism at Stanford University and a former foreign policy correspondent for the New Y ork Times.

Madeleine Albright had this to say quite recently regarding Myanmar:

 The Burmese government’s criminally neglectful response to last month’s cyclone, and the world’s response to that response, illustrate three grim realities today: totalitarian governments are alive and well; their neighbors are reluctant to pressure them to change; and the notion of national sovereignty as sacred is gaining ground, helped in no small part by the disastrous results of the American invasion of Iraq. Indeed many of the world’s necessary interventions in the decade before the invasion—in places like Haiti and the Balkans—would seem impossible in today’s climate….The global conscious is not asleep, but after the turbulence of recent years, it is profoundly confused. Some governments will oppose any exceptions to the principle of sovereignty because they fear criticism of their own policies. Others will defend the sanctity of sovereignty unless and until they again have confidence in the judgment of those proposing exceptions. At the heart of the debate is the question of what the international system is. Is it just a collection of legal nuts and bolts cobbled together by governments to protect governments? Or is it a living framework of rules intended to make the world a more human place? We know how the government of Myanmar would answer that question, but what we need to listen to is the voice and cry of the Burmese people.
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INTRODUCTION: How many of us have to die for your diplomatic game? Myanmar Buddhist Monk, Ashin Metacarra [see also:]   The United Nations has been diplomatically trying to persuade Burma leaders for a long time. They tried by sending envoys. They talked with beautiful diplomatic words, but people have already known in advance that they cannot realistically hope for anything before the UN envoys come. The UN could not do anything for Burma. They could not count even the deaths after last September’s uprising. Since then we have deeply disappointed by the UN's failure.

The United Nations is likely very afraid of confrontation with China and Russia. Whenever both China and Russia say no, the United Nations was unable to change to say yes. They are always accepting and showing a kind of “obedience” to China and Russia. Were there any severe words or correcting comments made by UN leaders to Burma leaders? They have no authority to change Burma into a nation based on democracy.  So the world is very dangerous under the leadership of cowards. I wonder why most of the world seems content to be merely on-lookers for the Burmese people who are persecuted. They have no weapons and not like others. They are relatively helpless now. They want to freely survive like you. Even Buddhist monks who stay away from killing are also longing for US, UK and France to enter the country by force. Why? Because they want to see the people with enough food to continue to survive. You cannot diplomatically persuade Burmese military leaders to give up their kingships.  Even the Buddha and the Gods will be unable to preach to them or to guide them. They regard themselves as the best players. They have already decided how to win tomorrow's match. Remember that you cannot win by playing with them without weapons, but only with the help of weapons. What is Ban Ki Moon's suggestion? Isn’t it clear that he is just playing a diplomatic game? If so, how many of us have to die for his diplomatic game?

BRINKLEY: Almost 30 years ago, my editor dispatched me to Cambodia to cover the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and the resulting refugee holocaust. The images of babies with swollen bellies and only a few days left to live, emaciated and lethargic adults dying from typhoid, cholera or worse have hung with me to this day. Now, three decades later, the United Nations and the Cambodian government are staging a genocide tribunal for several surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. 2 million Cambodians died during the Khmer Rouge reign - most of them from disease and starvation.  

One country away, in Burma, more than 1 million survivors of Cyclone Nargis have now gone without food, medicine, clean water or sanitation services for more than four weeks. Though Burma's military dictators won't allow anyone to see, babies' bellies are beginning to swell, and listless adults are slipping away, victims of cholera, dysentery or worse. Tens of thousands are likely to die - most of them from disease and starvation.

The fault for all of this lies squarely on Gen. Than Shwe's shoulders.  

It is past time that the United Nations started planning a genocide tribunal for Shwe, the Burmese leader, and his fellow thugs.The case is clear; the verdict already known.  In Cambodia, prosecutors are digging through musty, incomplete records and relying on testimony from feeble, octogenarian witnesses. In Burma, all the evidence prosecutors would need is in the newspapers and on TV.

Put together, it displays a callous disregard for human life so stunning that it would probably embarrass Kim Jung Il, Robert Mugabe - perhaps even Omar al- Bashir, the president of Sudan.  

Here's the dossier: On May 20, Shwe promised Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, he would finally allow aid workers to deliver food and medicine to cyclone victims - three weeks after the storm. The next day, Shwe ordered his troops to sweep through the Irrawaddy Delta and evict cyclone victims from the few buildings that remained standing so they could be used as polling places.

Then soldiers pushed and prodded hungry and sick Burmese to vote in a sham referendum intended to extend Shwe's time in office, and sometimes filled in their ballots for them. Last Sunday, soldiers ordered cyclone victims to dismantle makeshift shelters they had put up near main roads to escape the floodwaters. The soldiers said they were unsightly.

Meanwhile, the International Red Cross reported that rivers and ponds in the delta remained clotted with corpses. On Tuesday, UNICEF noted that Burmese children were drinking from these fetid ponds. They had no other source of water. Even before the storm, Save the Children said it had identified 30,000 malnourished children in the affected areas.

Many of them, the group said a few days ago, "may already be dying for lack of food."  In Rangoon, meanwhile, when Ban proposed a donors conference for reconstruction aid, Shwe's government suddenly perked up and said Burma would be delighted to host it. Save our people, no; give us money - sure! Representatives from more than 50 countries attended the conference last Sunday.

Gen. Thein Sein, the Burmese prime minister, told them he would happily take their money. As for finally allowing aid workers in, he said, "we will consider allowing them in if they wish to engage in rehabilitation and reconstruction work." The government's relief operations have come to an end, he insisted. Burma is shifting its focus to rebuilding and reconstruction.  So much for Shwe's promise to Ban. So much for 100,000 sick and dying people.

Last week, Burma admitted about 40 more aid workers - while throwing up onerous restrictions on their work. For weeks, Shwe had refused even to take Ban's phone calls. Finally, Ban decided simply to show up. So the military set up a Potemkin refugee camp complete with crisp green tents and shiny new cookware. When Sein took Ban there a week later, reporters noticed that cooking oil jars remained sealed and store labels were still affixed to the frying pans.  

The New York Times reported that soldiers had used dynamite to rid the streams of unsightly corpses in the areas Ban visited. Now, a month after the storm, the United Nations estimates that fewer than half of the sick and starving cyclone victims have received even the first dollop of aid, while the generals insist that it's time to give up on the victims and start putting up new buildings.

If the world were a just place, then the first building project would be a prison to hold Shwe and his fellow thugs - after their genocide trial.

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