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Myanmar Tragedy: Need to break the

Myanmar Tragedy: Need to break the impasse

Editorial, The Statesman Newspaper, New Delhi
April 13, 2000

Ahead of the session of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, the
Myanmarese military junta has received a rap on the knuckles for
widespread use of forced labour and for doing nothing to arrest the
nation's rapidly declining social indicators including spreading
malnutrition. Two damning studies on Myanmar, one done by the
International Labour Organization on flagrant violation of workers'
rights and the other by the World Bank on the junta's failed economic
policies, give a good insight into gross abuse of power to further
tighten the vice-like grip on the Myanmarese people. The ILO report
makes frightful reading; countless people have apparently been herded
into labour camps for building infrastructure. Most of them are
subjected to the worst kind of servitude with little or no pay or food.
An undisclosed number have perished. Repeated appeals by the ILO to the
Yangoon junta to stop violating human rights have gone unheeded. The
ILO's governing body has called for action against the junta. Will it
work? The answer is no, if past experience is any guide. Self-interest
is all. The junta is thus able to keep sanctions at bay.

International paralysis has encouraged the junta. Recently on armed
forces day, the generals publicly threatened to eliminate Suu Kyi. Since
1988 they have been trying to marginalise her and her National League
for Democracy. Only a few months ago the junta compelled more than 1,000
of her party members to "resign" their membership. The goal is to
isolate Suu Kyi, because she is a powerful symbol both for the
Myanmarese people and the international community. But symbols do not
have a very long shelf-life. The generals make bold to strike at her,
something they have not dared to do so far. What will it take to awaken
the world from its slumber?