How To Convince Nations With Influence Over Burmese Junta To Halt Violence?

Posted by Sean McCormack
October 2, 2007

Last week, the military junta that has ruled Burma as a dictatorship for decades brutally suppressed demonstrations by Buddhist monks, democracy activists, and ordinary citizens calling for greater freedom in that country. Although the bloody crackdown was universally condemned by the international community, the United Nations Security Council has failed to pass resolutions that either condemn the violence or take binding punitive action against the regime.

Many countries that could have influence in Burma have sought to preserve their economic and strategic assets by propping up the regime.

What should be done to convince those nations with the greatest influence over the Burmese junta to use their influence to halt the bloodshed and establish a framework for sustained democratic reform?

Comments

Comments

Robert
|
Ohio, USA
October 2, 2007

Robert in Ohio writes:
Maybe we could set an example. Maybe we could quit propping up the Saudi Royal family ;)

Just a thought.

RONNIE
|
North Carolina, USA
October 2, 2007

Ronnie in North Carolina writes:
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells out the principles and guidance for all nations to follow, when it comes to these kinds of atrocity. So, the nations that have a conscience regarding "true justice" for humanity, should stop talking and begin acting out their God ordained responsibilities. In conclusion, strict sanctions should be imposed against nations that has a direct or indirect influence in Burma.

Emil
|
District Of Columbia, USA
October 2, 2007

Emil in Washington, DC writes:
Interesting question--while Ronnie has a good point about sanctions, sadly they do not work. Mr. McCormick--there is no simple answer here, since the interests of primary and secondary global powers are all in play.

To establish a viable framework for democratic reform in Burma? Hmm--I am a firm believer that quiet talks between the principles would be the first step. Subtle diplomatic initiatives involving the Chinese, Burmese and perhaps surrounding governments led by seasoned diplomats and professionals in negotiation. These would need to be informal discussions at first, which could ultimately result in formal and public (meaning--media presence) debates. This all would depend on the speed and direction of the talks. Unfortunately, I question whether this is a viable step considering how "I want it now" our world is becoming.

BTW (by the way)-- Thank you for initiating this blog! Good luck.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
October 3, 2007

Eric in New Mexico writes:
As an American, and Buddhist, I hope the following may serve to help my government assist in bringing China to accept a role which may be unfamiliar to them, but indeed must be taken up by them to be "stakeholder" in the common cause of peace.
Crisis = danger over opportunity, as I once put it to Sec. Rice. It is a Chinese trigram I am sure the Chinese are familiar with, and it is definitive of the moment in Burma today, with the world as witness.

Pardon me for posing a "hypothetical", but the key word is "If" the Chinese are willing to accept a mission in which they have much opportunity to gain from in their standing with the international community, and much to lose in terms of "face" if they cannot bring themselves to realize that were they to actively support the people of Burma in this "Saffron Revolution", and use all measures neccessary to assure transition to a new begining or "full circle" as it were; empowering the legitimately elected government denied to the people for almost two decades; That the people would be most grateful.
Chinese economic interests would not suffer thereby, as populations generally remember who helped them obtain their freedom.

I make a formal request that my government challenge China to step to the fore, and take its rightful place in the family of nations, just as my President has challenged all nations to adhere and protect the tennets of the Universal Declaration of Human rights. And a most worthy and timely speech it was that he gave.

I challenge our Chinese friends to act, assist the UN in the transition period, and contribute as needed to bring about a successful conclusion to this crisis that is like a running sore on the human condition.

I dedicate this Koan to the people of Burma, in the hopes that the international community will figure it out.

"When Battleships give way to Sailboats, how does the world realize its true self?"

In Buddhist training, a student is given a Koan, a question to
meditate on and learn understanding of the source of all things, life being
dualistic in nature, this is the essential struggle for enlightenment.

The above is such a Koan, or "life question".

Sometimes a conscious mind can construct great changes, with a single question, asked at the right moment, to the right people.
But words are all too often giving way to the sword, silenced in utterance, and stilled with overwhelming force. Words of good will, with hope for the future.

I am not worthy to be called teacher, in fact even the 98 year old Japanese monk who taught me considers himself a simple student.
The universe however, is a most worthy instructor.

Mmm
|
Egypt
October 3, 2007

M in Egypt writes:
Surely this is something the state department has extensive experience with, given its years of close relationships with repressive rulers? How do you pressure the Egyptian regime to stop beating up protesters and journalists and throwing them in jail? It seemed to be working at some point a few years ago, till the US administration backtracked - perhaps YOU could give others some tips? It's a bit surreal to see the U.S. suddenly outraged at crackdowns being carried out by non-allies.

If this blog is to be something more than a PR exercise, or a virtual playpen for U.S. diplomats to get - who exactly? - to discuss non-controversial foreign affairs matters in a hypothetical, carefully limited way, I hope "diplo bloggers" will exercise just a bit of honesty. But perhaps that's asking too much.

Daniel S.
October 3, 2007

Aye Aye writes:
I recently returned from a trip to Yangon. As you know, the situation in Burma is quite tense. We are estimating over a thousand monks, nuns and civilians arrested and around 100 have died. Everyone I spoke with in Yangon thought that the U.S. or the UN or some foreign government would come to rescue us with their military might. I did not have the heart to say otherwise. Besides, this time who knows the U.S., U.K. and France under Sarkozy might be able to pass a resolution in the UN Security Council - but only if China and Russia cooperate.

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived there last night and got whisked away to the new capital where there is no action. (The government, anticipating events like this, recently moved the capital from Rangoon to a remote town now populated primarily by civil servants.) I highly doubt that he could do anything effective. China has greater potential to make an impact. Predictably, Chinese government has asked for restraint but refused to get involved further as it claimed not wanting to interfere in other countries' domestic issues. The fact that it is selling arms to the junta puts it in the central place in Burmese internal affairs as was rightly pointed out at the UN recently.

Please write to your governments urging them to put pressure on the Chinese government to urge the Burmese generals to talk to the opposition. Additionally, the UN should pass a resolution banning sales of arms to the Burmese government and imposing sanctions on those who don't comply.

On the other hand, I think the western media and critics should avoid calling the Burmese military things like "thugs." There may be splits within the military between moderate and hardline factions. This kind of label only unites the military against such criticism. If we want them to act responsibly, we have to behave responsibly as well. We need soldiers to stop shooting and join us in our struggle. Calling them names does not encourage this. We need to show respect and remind them that our national hero Bogyoke Aung San was an army officer who gave up his army post. History will remember who is good or bad.

Kathy
|
United States
October 3, 2007

Kathy in U.S.A. writes:
Thanks for a chance to wonder aloud, and to the powers that be, how the U.S.A. after an illegal preemptive attack on a sovereign nation, Iraq, gets on a human rights high horse? The number of Iraqis killed is estimated at over 1 million, but the U.S. doesn’t count these deaths. One can only conclude the U.S. doesn’t care.

Jan
|
Netherlands
October 3, 2007

Jan in The Netherlands writes:
This would par excellence be a field where the U.S. State Department could weigh in. If and when the U.S. government exerts pression upon the Burmese regime (How? Well, by threatening, e.g. with trade bans ), whether or not this be done in coordination with China, ignoring it would be foolish, for the Burmese generals. And they know that. This is an excellent occasion for the U.S. government / State Department to show the world that results CAN be achieved and that democracy CAN be spread by diplomatic means. Just like in the North Korea case.

RON
|
Kansas, USA
October 3, 2007

Ron in Kansas writes:
Burmese much as any other nations people have something for which they yearn. Mainly the right to figure out and follow what that is.

In dealing with China it would seem to be prudent that we maintain what the actual benefit to China or Russia for that matter would be in the long term sense of things.

From their perspective. Only through this awareness acceptance and relevant adjustment in how we address the issue will we (as inferred by Emil and M) actually stand to achieve any forward momentum.

Greed is not always a motivating factor as many times money is but a very small slice of the power pie in organizations. Find whats truly valuable and work with it.

Just a thought...

Student
|
United States
October 3, 2007

Student in U.S.A. writes:
@ To the poster who claims that "1 million iraq" citizens have been killed by the US -- ...Where are you getting this number from? Are you out of this world? Do you seriously believe the moonbats that claim we are killing innocents over there? Maybe you should have a "discussion" with the terrorists who blow themselves and their victims up.

Don't ever forget, the death toll in Iraq lies in dead SOLDIERS and dead terrorist attack victims.

Ryan
|
Michigan, USA
October 3, 2007

Ryan in Michigan writes:
I'm not even remotely a foreign policy expert. (given the state of the world, who is?)

But, given that, the thing I see that is absent in many of the world's responses to atrocities and government crackdowns on freedom...is knowledge.

Knowledge of culture, knowledge of the political complexities, knoweledge of how the average person in burma feels about his or her government.

I feel like the U.S. (and others, obviously) react without really knowing what they're reacting to. Your actions are only going to be as effective as your knowledge of the situation.

So, whether its obvious or not why the crackdown is happening, there are going to be nuances there that we need to know.

This is almost useless as a comment; it takes time to gather that information, and we really should act soon to respond to the violence there. But, as an outside observer, someone who hadn't given half a thought to country of Burma in years, my guess is that acting all tough and enacting sanctions will only end up aggravating the situation (and the people on the ground, who will suffer the most from the sanctions.)

I guess it seems sort of hopeless. Do any options sound like they'll work at this point?

Consider this a formal request for a blog post to explain what actions (or lack thereof) the State Department is taking (or considering) to deal with this situation.

Saint A.
October 3, 2007

Augustine writes:
What can be done is to stop the policy perversions that have occurred under the Bush administration? The United Stated has lost its standing in the world as a result of Bush's policies.

I wish Congress would impeach both Bush and Cheney, it would be a great step in showing the World that we are a peaceful nation.

Steve
|
New York, USA
October 3, 2007

Steve in New York writes:
Can't you guys send some drunken armed Blackwater employees in there? That junta doesn't stand a chance.

Student
|
Egypt
October 3, 2007

Student in Egypt writes:
@ Student in U.S.A. -- I think the poster was referring to the Iraqi civilians dead as a result of the war not killed by U.S. forces. Although 1 million is a high number, according to the John Hopkins study done last year it may be as high as 650,000 which is also not a pretty number.

I wonder what the global reaction would be if the U.S. unilaterally sent peace-keeping troops to protect the demonstrators?

Racine
|
United States
October 3, 2007

Racine in U.S.A. writes:
One useful course of action might involve the United States itself refusing to support countries that run repressive, anti-democratic, quasi-totalitarian regimes.

You can't take the moral high ground if you're waist-deep in the mud.

armand
|
Canada
October 3, 2007

Armand in Canada writes:
Well - if the US State Department was serious about pressuring the junta, it wouldn't ask suggestions from members of the public, would it ?

I mean, you know better than we do how to get this done - so I can only assume that this call for suggestions is a polite way to say you don't want to do anything.

Which, by the way, is a defensible point of view. But it didn't sound like President Bush was seeing things this way when he talked at the UN.

Avery
|
Canada
October 3, 2007

Avery in Canada writes:
Covert funding of international consumer groups seeking to boycott all Chinese\Burmese goods.

In short - a Global Boycott.

An efflorescence converging at the opening of the Beijing Olympics.

Why?

Is China merely an innocent bystander in the slaughter of harmless monks, countless unarmed citizens, and a Japanese photographer gunned down and murdered for no better reason than being in a crowd taking snaps? This has the makings of a holocaust.

It is obvious, Burma would never have acted this recklessly without seeking China's explicit consent, if not overt encouragement.

Militarily - the US can do nothing - a travel embargo, a goods blockade or a bombing mission on the general's capital would provoke a financial crisis and\or WWIII.

Diplomatically - the US can do nothing. Without further tangible disincentive the CCP leaders never have ears for humanitarian complaints which, to them, merely are annoying interference in domestic affairs.

If it were otherwise, and China was respectful of international concerns, Tibet would again be a sovereign nation, and the routine egregious "organ-harvesting" of Falung Gong prisoners would have ceased.

I think that the only operation which could affect the Chinese Communist dictatorship is a deniable one, using passivity and a real threat of greatly reduced mass revenue.

A global consumer-led rebellion against China's perverse recklessness would grow quickly, and as the trade numbers fell, China in turn would call on foreign governments to complain.

An appropriate response would be a mirror-image of China's own indifference to questions of human rights: feigned helplessness.

"We can do NOTHING! In Democratic countries people are free to purchase goods and services according to their wants. If they choose to punish your country for sheltering the murderous psychopaths ruling Burma, then that is their decision."

This leaves China with a clear message and a dilemma - not only do tens of thousands of annual riots within China indicate rejection of CCP policies internally, but income otherwise derived from Chinese\Burmese slave labour is about to collapse.

What could alter this consumer perception about China?

- Should the CCP recognize their economic position is in jeopardy and generously house the Burmese junta in Beijing?

- Should they cease killing people to sell their organs?

- Loosen their iron control over Tibet?

The boycott would most likely subside.

Indirect methods? Certainly.

But nothing direct has worked for decades, or is likely to, is it?

Kyle
|
United States
October 3, 2007

Kyle in U.S.A. writes:
Voice of America in Burmese!

It doesn't have to say a lot. It just has to tell the truth about the junta. That will keep the Burmese motivated, and that helps them resist. Remember, Soviet dissidents said that listening to VOA kept them motivated. The same will be true in Burma.

Chris
|
Virginia, USA
October 3, 2007

Chris in Virginia writes:
There seem to be lots of things we can do. First, freeze financial holdings and transactions with that country, including those by American companies. Ban arms sales to the country. Provide funds for human rights, news, and health care organizations to send large numbers of people there as observers. Call the country to explain its actions to the UN. Work with the UN to establish a dialogue with the government. Support the people arrested with diplomatic status. There are lots more ways. We could be doing more.

Madeline
|
Florida, USA
October 3, 2007

Madeline in Florida writes:
Demand that U.S. companies stop doing business with Burmese junta.

Have some courage and be real democracy builders.

Murat
|
Turkey
October 4, 2007

Murat in Turkey writes:
In every possible way, the U.S. should follow an active strategy and take all necessary measures against this junta. Otherwise, a huge majority worldwide will continue to think that the U.S. intervened in Iraq only because there was petroleum there, and ignores Myanmar simply because it's not an oil-rich country, a view that I personally do NOT share since I remember the U.S. rescue operation in Bosnia.

Josã A.
|
Brazil
October 4, 2007

José in Brazil writes:
First of all, I think the western diplomacy should avoid to urge China to act using the human rights claiming . In my point of view it’s necessary to use Real Politick here. I think that the commercial approach is more useful to convince the Chinese government about the advantages of a peaceful region to increase trading. The western must to show that the establishment of confidence to make commercial deals depends in large scale of political stability in the nations in that region. Political stability came before Business. Although the bloodiest “ancient regime” I firmly believe that China can be persuaded to impose their influence in Burma to protect their own economics interests.

Louis
|
Spain
October 4, 2007

Louis in Spain writes:
Mr. McCormack, as you are aware, there are lots of problems around the globe, different kinds of problems. Who should solve those problems? I think the entire globe belong to each of us, we inhale the same air, we drink the same water and our dreams are the same. All human-being in their good sense pray for democracy. These days, in some countries, there are so proud leaders by force, and they believe they can do whatever they like, after all a country is made of many souls and not just few. From my point of view the UN should be empowered, and should start working solving the problems of each of its members. And in those countries with dictatorships the time should give the answer, at the end of the day the people will conquer the democracy.

Ray
|
Tennessee, USA
October 4, 2007

Ray in Tennessee writes:
I suggest the U.S. State Department's professional diplomatic corps grow a backbone and make it clear that the United States will not tolerate any further abuses. And if they did not stop, we should use what should be our considerable influence to affect change - economic, political, diplomatic, and if necessary, military.

John
|
Ohio, USA
October 4, 2007

John in Ohio writes:
Let's be frank, here. We're talking about China. No one else is in a better position to stop what is going on in Burma and to reform it. What is in China's interest is stability on its borders, and China must be made to understand that this untenable situation cannot lead to genuine stablility. The Chinese will not accept "democracy" as a goal for Burma -- why would they? They don't share that goal themselves. No, the Chinese must be made to understand that a Tiananmen-type response to protests only works in China. China must understand that other nations will not be passive, and will work hard now to undermine the Burma junta, and that will mean more protests and potential chaos in Burma. They must be made to understand that it is in China's interest to install a new government that is more aligned to the interests of its people than the current regime.

Brian
|
Colorado, USA
October 4, 2007

Brian in Colorado writes:
The U.S. should do nothing. The same people who are begging for American to act on behalf of the people of Burma will turn on us and call us imperialist aggressors if we actually do anything. After all when we actually did liberate 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, all people do is whine and quote made up statistcis about how we killed 750 million Iraqis or some such non-sense.

Let Europe do it if our moral authority is too tainted.

Mason
|
United States
October 4, 2007

Mason in U.S.A. writes:
This whole idea is dopey. If you want a blog, do it as a hobby on your own time. Get back to work. Incredible!

Ashley
|
New York, USA
October 4, 2007

Ashley in New York writes:
As a U.S. Mission to the UN intern this fall, I have quickly learned that there are many, many ways to influence other nations.

This issue in particular has a high public profile, and the public should continue to press other nations to become involved. Through the internet, the public holds a lot of power, especially with the rising popularity of blogs and social networking sites like Facebook.

The United Nations Special Envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari is scheduled to brief the Security Council on Friday, October 5, about his recent trip to the country. The format for the briefing is currently being debated. The United States feels that the briefing should be open to the public for a number of reasons, including the fact that this should remain a transparent issue open to the public, and so Burma can voice its opinion as well.

Open dialogue between countries (and the public) seems to be an avenue that has worked in the past. Hopefully it can be effective in resolving this issue as well.

Alex
|
Virginia, USA
October 4, 2007

Alex in Virginia writes:
Leverage the anti-Bejing 2008 activist groups to shame China in the Burma case as that is seemingly beginning to work in the Sudan issue. Though it will likely take more activism and behind-the-scenes diplomacy to get China to act on this issue, that is much closer to home for the Chinese, using the 2008 Olympics as a lever is the bets option when dealing with the Chinese at this point.

George
|
Indiana, USA
October 4, 2007

George in Indiana writes:
How about removing MFN from the People's Republic of China and sending an Ambassador to Taiwan? (After all, we are really talking about the influence of the PRC. If you want to let the PRC know you are displeased, do it so they get the message loud and clear.

Of course, I imagine members of the Striped Pants Brigade are pissing their pants at the idea.

The worst thing to do would be to go to the UN (which is dominated by regimes who see the Burmese actions as a good example, and where the PRC has a veto). The next worst would be multilateral "talks" - which are generally used to look like something is being done when nothing really is - basically, meaningless political cover.

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