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A NOTE ON NON-VIOLENT PRESSURES (1/
Subject: A NOTE ON NON-VIOLENT PRESSURES (1/2)
/* Written 6 Jan 6:00am 1997 by drunoo@xxxxxxxxxxxx(Dr U Ne Oo) in igc:reg.burma */
/* -------------" A Note on Non-violent Pressures (1/2) "-------------- */
A Note on Non-violent Pressures
As the year 1996 ended, it is the time to re-evaluate the current state of
movement and to review our policy orientations. Lets focus our attention
to the current issues in the Burma democracy movement: the non-violent
struggle, the trade sanction on Burma and humanitarian issues.
The Year 1996
Unfortunately, we cannot end the year 1996 with a high note. Firstly, we
are not successful in pushing Slorc to enter dialogue with the
Opposition. Throughout the year, the U.N. mediators had been turned away
many times by the Slorc: it is now quite clear that SLORC has no intention
to resolve the political problem by negotiations. The democracy movement,
therefore, should consider to re-adjust the policy of negotiations and
reconciliation with SLORC to the policy to marginalize SLORC and remove
SLORC from power.
Policy of Benchmarks and Reconciliation
In early 1994, Senator Gareth Evans, the former Australian foreign
minister, proposed sets of benchmarks to improve the situation of human
rights in Burma. The wisdom of this benchmarks policy is that the layout
of benchmarks on human rights is not only been attractive but also is
practical to work on. No one, of course, is expecting the military regime
like SLORC to reform itself by simply setting such benchmarks. Each step of
benchmarks can be achieved only by putting pressure on SLORC. The type of
pressure can be of two types: (1) the non-violent public/diplomatic pressure
and (2) those of which are more direct and substantive in nature.
Over the years, few of the benchmarks were achieved - thanks to the efforts
of various pro-democracy groups and diplomatic community. The results,
though, are not as good as we would like them to be. The political
environment has now changed and therefore time to reconsider our policy
orientations. Eventhough the democracy movement - especially from outside
pressure groups - may have to make some departure from the policy of
negotiations and reconciliation with SLORC, the subtle frameworks of
benchmarks on human rights may still remains.
As for the National League for Democracy, and also the ethnic nationality
groups, they should continue to urge SLORC to enter dialogue. However, one
must recognize that the SLORC has no intention to make negotiations and
reconciliation with the opposition. Therefore, the opposition NLD should
consider to open the possibility of establishing itself as an alternative
democratic government of Burma.
The non-violent actions by the grassroots support groups are effective in
many ways: in putting psychological pressure on SLORC and also in
diplomatically isolating SLORC from international community.
Organizing protests, writing letters and simply speaking out the "truth"
about the situation in Burma are the actions taken by our compatriots and
supporters throughout the struggle. One, of course, may not generally see
the immediate impact/result of those non-violent actions. It however clear
that no human being is impervious to such non-violent pressure. A person
may be so successful at practicing deceit upon the others, but no human
being can lie his own conscience. A dictator may be able to hide behind a
fortress and can escape from the attack of the enemy, but he cannot avoid
the attack by his own conscience and guilt. It is the way non-violent
pressures can be brought to bear on the military dictatorship.
Although the non-violent pressure can be effective in certain ways, such
pressure cannot normally be expected to brought concessions on fundamental
issues. This is because of the way a dictatorship is different from normal
politicians. Politicians are open to reasons and listen to the differing
views as much as possible. Dictatorships ultimately ignore the differing
views from their opponents, no matter how genuine and valuable may this
view be (Adding factor to this, in the case of Burma, is that the SLORC's
lack of intellectual capacity to understand the other views.). Military
dictators will certainly be shakened in their minds by these non-violent
protests, but still, will not make concessions.
Eventhough the non-violent pressure cannot directly force a dictatorship,
such as SLORC, to make concessions, it help the movement in more than one
ways. Firstly, the non-violent actions can diplomatically isolate the
regime from international community ("Isolation of Slorc" here do not means
"Making non-contact with Slorc"; it here to means more of "political and
ideological isolation"). Few examples at hand - such as recent ASEAN's
opinion swings against SLORC and the SLORC's spectacular failure of the
"Visit Myanmar Year" - are the kind of isolation for SLORC that has
been brought to bear by means of the non-violent pressures.
Secondly, these non-violent actions by the support groups help the
oppressed as they lend the solidarity. These non-violent actions are also
the best way to maintain the momentum of and solidarity within the
movement. I always remember, for example, a protest of NGOs in 1993 at a UN
forum in Geneva. The representatives of those NGOs put the "Aung San Suu
Kyi Mask" on their face, standing silently while SLORC foreign minister
deliver his speech at that forum (these representatives were asked to leave
the meeting for their un-ruly behaviour, later it was reported.). I
personally feel much gratitude towards those such people, and certainly
their action encouraged me to be more involve in the struggle. This is the
way how the solidarity can be communicated via non-violent actions.
To many Burmese, such non-violent actions by international community mean
much more than providing the solidarity to them and to their compatriots
inside the country. For example, by a simple action of putting rebuttal
against SLORC's propaganda on the Internet, you have declared your
friendship and solidarity to the Burmese. When you raise your concern
about our refugees and the political prisoners, your are to be regarded
as of our family. When you write a note about Burma situation to your
Congressmen or Foreign Minister, you are considered to have joined the
ranks of "Burma-Democracy-Tribe". When you take part in protest actions -
even sometimes at the risk of losing your own freedom - then you are
considered to be our saviours. These non-violent actions by our supporters,
though may not produce immediate results of getting concessions from SLORC,
do help us in many ways in our struggle for democracy in Burma.
Direct and Substantive Pressures
The two issues: threat of U.N. humanitarian intervention and the trade and
economic sanctions, are more direct and substantive in nature and can force
Slorc to enter negotiations. Everyone in the movement are in agreement
that there should be some form of intervention from the U.N. and the
U.N. to be more active on humanitarian concerns. However, there are some
differing views (at least from me) towards trade and economic sanctions.
We must also look into these issues in some details.
Unfortunately, this year's U.N. resolution do not go far enough in
addressing the humanitarian concerns. There is a general statement about
the refugee flows into neighbouring countries. It however ignored the
plight of internally displaced people. There is one paragraph (16) that
specifically urging Burma to solve its refugee problem. The resolution,
however, does not raise the concern about SLORC limiting the UNHCR's
activity regarding the repatriation of Rohingyas. The UNGA also fails to
specifically recommend an unhindered access to be given the UNHCR/NGOs to
The resolution recommends the continuation of the Secretary-General efforts
in initiating dialogue in Burma (para 7). All of Secretary-General's
efforts in last year were wasted because of SLORC simply refusing to see
the U.N. representatives. It therefore clear that the U.N. must make move
on refugee issues with degree of seriousness in order to broker dialogue in
Burma. By now the General Assembly is completed, our only chance to get the
U.N. moving on this issue is through the U.N. Security Council.
The United States Can Help
The United States can certainly help especially at the level of Security
Council. This year, our Burma human rights movement was bullied at the UNGA
in the name of consensus (of course, it is easier to built consensus by
doing nothing new - most governments will opt to maintain status quo.); we
must turn to the U.S. for their leadership.
The U.S. engagement to Asia and especially Burma is most crucial to advance
our human rights and democracy cause. Since the appointment of Special
Envoy on Burma in last July, there has been Burma policy consolidation,
particularly, by Burma's neighbouring countries. People within Burma
democracy movement are quietly confident about the help from U.S.,
especially the continuation of the U.S. policy of engagement towards
Burma, because of the President Clinton has been re-elected. (What I
gathered was that the Republican Candidate, Mr Bob Dole, is also a
competent foreign policy-maker, though the policy of U.S. engagement to
Burma will be maintained is uncertain if he is elected.)
Our highest expectation is on the new U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine
Albright. Her involvement to Burma situation is well known to all of us.
She was the daughter of a refugee-diplomat from Czechoslovakia, from which
she has steadily rose to this rank. One report indicates "She does not
believe in appeasement and is more than prepared to urge the use of United
States troops to solve international disputes". As the U.N. Ambassador, she
has reportedly supported various U.N. intervention of humanitarian in
character, including the intervention on Somalia.
The new U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson will also be of a great help to
Burma democracy movement. He is the one who firstly suggested to form the
U.N. Contact group for Burma. By now with the new initiatives from
Canadians, it is quite hopeful that this plan will be materialized soon.
We, the Burma democracy movement, will then have less instances of being
bullied at the U.N. forums.
We must make our own initiatives
One commonly asked question, especially in the earlier years, was that
"Do the Burmese knows what they want ?". Many Burmese, in first instance,
may tend to be infuriated by such questions. To get rid of SLORC from
power, of course, is what the Burmese people want; but how to do it and how
the international community can help are certainly worth pondering. It is
not good enough to simply ask for help, but must make our own input to the
U.N. and international community about how they can help. The initiatives,
and also to show the will to strive for a greater freedom, are needed from
the part of oppressed people. The development in recent years, such as
various Burma Refugee Committees in Thailand requesting help from UNHCR for
voluntary repatriation, can be considered as one such courageous move
initiated by the refugees.
(Note on the controversial issue of trade and economic sanctions
is to be posted in part-2.)
With best regards, U Ne Oo.
/* End part-1 */