Recent events in Burma pushed the country onto the front pages on the media. Thousands of peaceful monks protesting since mid-August after the government hiked fuel prices, a 62 years-old lady being under house arrest for more than 10 years because she won the free elections 17 years ago, and a strong military junta who doesn’t want to step down. This could make a great movie plot outline but it’s real story. And it’s happening now. Again (Darfur: when History is a never ending story…). Twenty years ago, hundreds of protesters were massacred by security forces, two years before the election results were annulled. In 2004, the first round of sanctions was put in place but in January 2007, China and Russia cast a double veto on a U.S. resolution calling for the release of all political prisoners and stop attacks against ethnic minorities. Once again, China and Russia are involved, but they’re not alone, as usual.
In a press release last Monday (October 1st), Amnesty International called for comprehensive international arms embargo. The Organization is “calling on the principal suppliers of arms to Myanmar, in particular China and India, in addition to Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and ASEAN nations, to prohibit the involvement of their agencies, companies and nationals in the direct and indirect supply of military and security equipment, munitions and expertise, including transfers claimed to be ‘non-lethal’, to Myanmar“. Here we are, again. But if these countries are involved by selling arms to the military junta, we also have to look on the natural resources, like natural gas, semi-precious gemstones (emerald) and oil (Hotel Rwanda, Syriana, Blood Diamond… Not only entertainment). France is concerned with Total (alongside Chevron for the US), and Burmese opposition asked the oil giant to suspend its activities in the Yadana gas field in southern Burma. France’s Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, rejected suggestions that Total is, for being implanted in Burma and making money, an ally of the military junta in Rangoon. Things are -again- more complicated than they appear at first sight.
Meanwhile industrialized countries argue about the legitimacy of their companies business in Burma (one of Asia’s poorest countries), a Japanese journalist has been killed, peaceful protesters (monks and civilians) have been arrested (by the way, where are they?) and Aung San Suu Kyiis still considered as the biggest threat to and by Myanmar’s military junta. So what’s next? UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown vowed there would be “no impunity for human rights violators“, U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari met with ruling military junta leaders a few days ago, and China and Russia blocked firm statements against the junta at the UN, saying that the situation in Myanmar is an internal affair and doesn’t threaten international peace and security. Status-quo. Like for Darfur, the situation implies many countries, on different levels, and there are obviously no quick and easy answers to the Burma ‘problem’. As always.
At least, keep up our optimism, try not to forget what already happened and let’s hope (yes, hope…) it won’t happen again, that a peaceful movement can’t be put down that easily. Some people are fighting for their survival and their freedom in these countries, and to quote Aung San Suu Kyi: “Please Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours“. So let’s make some noise, again.