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September 30, 2008

Neither engagement nor sanctions

By Zaw Nay Aung

Burma's struggle for democracy still could not secure a viable solution while the 'constructive engagement' or the western sanctions did not make any significant progress.


The Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win demanded the West to revoke the sanctions placed on Burma at the UN General Assembly as he claimed that the western sanctions are ‘illegal, unfair and immoral’. In order to revoke the sanctions, the regime must first show their genuine will of reconciliation by releasing all political prisoners including Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi and resuming the ongoing dialogue with a specific time-frame. Without showing any respect of human rights and widely practicing the immoral and inhumane treatments towards the dissidents and ethnic minorities, the western countries like United States and European Union would not give a thought of lifting the barriers. However, the junta seems well determined to go ahead with their plan of 7-steps roadmap and holding the general election in 2010 whether the NLD (National League for Democracy) enter the election again after leaving their 1990 election victory behind. The regime has already made clear that the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi would not be qualified to be a candidate for the coming election. Suu Kyi was not qualified for the 1990 election as well and it was clear that she would never be qualified for participating in the election as long as the regime is in power.  Burma is nowhere close to democracy with the decade long political stalemate. Neither the ‘constructive engagement’ of the regional countries nor the Western sanctions bring about significant developments over the years.Unfortunately, the so-called ‘Friends of Burma’ could not reach to an agreement on how to bring improvements in current political climate during their recent meeting chaired by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Before the reconciliation process in Burma, the countries in the group of ‘Friends of Burma’ need to have a consensus on how to deal with the regime. The ASEAN and regional countries have been quite reluctant to isolate the Burmese junta and rather getting along with the junta for exploiting Burmese resources. On the other hand, although the supporters of Burmese democracy struggle such as US, UK and other EU countries keep their pressures on the junta, the loopholes in their measures have given the regime to survive for the last twenty years. The US Chevron and French oil giant Total keep hugging with the generals for years and their presence in Burma has been undermining the crucial measures against the regime.In such a time of nowhere near to the democratic goals, it is remarkable that the leading Buddhist monk who organised the anniversary of ‘Saffron Revolution’ in Sittwe, city of ethnic Arakanese state in the western Burma said everyone has to work hard and have self-confidence and self-reliance rather than expecting any helps from neither the West nor the United Nations. Nevertheless, the Burmese and all other minorities have sacrificed thousands of their lives and shown their courage for twenty years. The regime never bothers to kill and shoot innocent civilians including Buddhist monks.  One thing sure after the two decades is that not only the courage, resolution and morale could not bring down the regime but other essential supports are desperately needed from the international community.

Submitters Bio:
Zaw Nay Aung is director of London-based human rights advocacy and think tank, Burma Independence Advocates.