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Another diatribe against DASSK from

Subject: Another diatribe against DASSK from Michael Dobbs-Higginson

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A query:  Who is "Michael Dobbs - Higginson", including nationality, present
employer, and address/fax/email if possible?  
(A prize for the first person to give us some solid information,   BRC - J)

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Taken from Soc.Culture.Burma with no indication where the
original came from.  (We have our theories.)

(by Michael Dobbs-Higginson) 

What is always interesting about the international media is
the clear bias that so many journalists have towards subjects
that they have taken a particular position on. This results in
distortions which the unknowing reader is not aware of, and
results in the  reader believing erroneously that the relevant
commentary is a  balanced and objective view. Such is
human nature in both  respects! 

Take for example two recent articles in the International 
Herald Tribune  (on Wednesday and Thursday the 29th and
30th November respectively) in one of the world's leading,
English language daily news papers about the reopening of
Myanmar's  constitutional convention on Tuesday 28th
November. First of all  why did both articles refer to the
country as Burma., the former  name given by the British
colonial administration, instead of  Myanmar the historic
name of the country before the British came.  To persist in
doing this is basically an insult to the country. 

Is it because Aung San Suu Kyi refuse to call the country 
Myanmar and sticks stubbornly to the name Burma, and, in
turn the  international media, with its biased and obsessive
focus on her  and her activities, slavishly follows suit? This
behavior is indeed  curious, as many other countries when, or
after, they achieved  independence have renamed their
countries and the rest of the  world accepts such new names.
This behavior is even more curious  in that a simple poll of
the average Myanmar citizen reveals that the  overwhelming
response is a preference for, and a national pride in,  the
traditional name  Myanmar rather that the British name
Burma.  Maybe it is because Suu Kyi, having lived abroad
for (28) years -  most of her adult life doesn't really feel in
her heart that she is a  true Myanmar national. Alternatively,
maybe it is both because the  original BAMAR (changed by
the British to Burma as it was easier  for them to pronounce)
people came from the Yangon to Mandalay  region and also
from the delta region and because Suu Kyi and her  family
are originally from the town of NATMAUK (between 
Yangon and Mandalay), she feels that she is a Burmese
person  rather than a Myanmar person. If this is correct or
even partly  correct, how can she claim that she represents
the country of  Myanmar which incorporates many different
regions and so many  different ethnic groups. Surely she
must realize that the current  government thinks of the
Myanmar country as a whole and that  one of its principle
objectives is to develop a sense of national  unity which is
critical for the future, peaceful, social and economic 
development of Myanmar. Her continuing resistance in
referring to  the country as Burma (BAMAR) must cause
other ethnic groups to  question her true agenda for the
future of the country as a whole.  Or is her reaction possibly
also a rather childish way of rejecting  the current
government because the previous government under  Senior
General Saw Maung (1988-92) renamed the country 
Myanmar. Again an attitude which is not exactly helpful in 
developing a sense both of fairness to all ethnic groups and
of  national unity. 

Returning to the two newspaper articles, the first 29th 
November article was very short and the only substantive
point was  that "Suu Kyi's party the National League for
Democracy (NLD)  attended the reopening of Burma's
Constitutional Convention, a  meeting she had threatened to
boycott." No journalist name was  mentioned. The second
30th November article was very negative about the current
government. It was written by Phillip Shenon for  the New
York Times Service and reprinted in the International 
Herald Tribune. It is interesting to note that while he is no
doubt a  very competent journalist, he is also a very close
friend of Michael  Aris, the English husband of Suu Kyi! In
his article he states that  "the NLD would boycott the
Convention." This is an example of  the journalistic bias I
referred to above. In fact the NLD actually  attended the
convention on Tuesday 28th November - it then   walked out
because they claimed that the opening speech by the 
National Convention Session Chairman Lt. Gen. Myo Nyunt
was  not to their linking - what an absurd pretext! Apart
from this  inaccurate and biased reporting what is more
interesting to question  is the NLD's motives in walking out
of the Convention. It could be  argued that from a strategic
point of view, if the NLD had actually  boycotted the
Convention (i.e. without attending it at all) , this  would have
made them seem petty and unreasonable. So instead it is 
probable that they attended briefly knowing full well they
would walk  out using any pretext at all and thus get
maximum international  positive press coverage. 

What Suu Kyi and the NLD party don't seem to care about, 
because of their own self - interest agenda, is that their
"game- playing" could lead to the international press
becoming even more  sensationalist, biased and hostile
towards the current government.  Much more importantly
this will in turn negatively affect  international investor's
attitudes towards Myanmar and thus reduce  the level of
foreign funds being invested in Myanmar.  

What these naive and irresponsible people don't realize is 
that the current government under senior General Than Shwe
has  made remarkable strides since late 1992 in opening up
the  Myanmar economy to serious foreign investment. What
they and  the ordinary people of Myanmar also don't realize
is that the  international investment community which is
practical, open and  fair (quite different to the international
press community) is  becoming increasingly unsatisfied by
both China's and Vietnam's  lack of a proper legal system, the
frequent breaking of signed  contracts, the high level of
corruption and the general confusion  caused by all these
factors plus the old communist ideologues  fighting with the
new business oriented ones. By contrast  Myanmar with its
resources and in particular, with the pleasant and  highly,
moral disposition of its people makes it a very attractive 
investment alternative to these other two countries. 

As a result of the current Myanmar governments strong and 
positive efforts and of the above dissatisfaction with some 
countries there is a clearly defined swing of widespread, 
international investment interest towards Myanmar. If the
NLD  party, which is hardly a cohesive one due to its
squabbling factions  each with its own different agenda,
continues to behave in this  irresponsible and selfish way, the
victim of these actions will not  be the current government.
Instead, the victim will be the ordinary  Myanmar citizen
whose opportunity to gain better education, health  care,
better infrastructure services ( such as electricity, water, 
sewerage, roads and so on) and the chance over all to
improve their  lives, will be severely damaged if foreign
governments do not offer  aid and foreign investors do not
invest. All because of their  perceptions that the country
might have more civil unrest or even  civil disturbances due
to the NLD's actions. It is therefore time that  the ordinary
Myanmar person (not just the Burmese people) took a  more
active interest in the other dark and selfish side of the NLD 
activities. If the ordinary people had a clearer idea, it is not 
unreasonable to think that a large number of them might
prefer to  support the current government - under its
administration a clear  structure is emerging and real
progress is being made. I personally  am more than nervous
about the terrifying thought of a faction  ridden, naive and
totally inexperienced NLD party trying to govern  Myanmar
at this stage of its development. 

In conclusion, while I could return to the rest of Phillip 
Shenon's article and show a series of clear alternative
pictures to the  ones he paints, I would rather leave the
reader to arrive at his or her  own conclusion on the major
issues I have outlined above. ********* 

(Reprinted as found, spelling errors, etc. not ours)