Thursday, January 24, 2008

Can the U.N. change the mindset of the generals?


Dr. Sein Myint
Mizzima News (
January 22, 2008

When asked why he does not protest more strongly against his father's role in the killing of civilians, Omar bin Laden said that it is up to religious clerics close to his father, Osama bin Laden, to tell him to change his tactics in the name of Islam. However, Omar added that even if that unlikely scenario were to occur, al-Qaeda still would not cease in operating as it does.

A similar question may be asked of the U.N.'s role in Burma. Can simply recommending to the generals that they alter their ways lead to any fundamental changes in how they govern Burma?

The Burmese junta thrives on fear tactics and intimidation directed against the Burmese people while rewarding civilian collaborators and cohorts with money and status for their thuggish work at local levels. At the national level, SPDC members, army commanders and cabinet ministers revel in a luxurious lifestyle made possible from wealth accumulated through the plunder of the national economy.

In a recent interview with Newsweek, U.N. Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari stressed that his job is not to change the regime but rather to change the behavior of the ruling generals and assist the country in achieving genuine national reconciliation, inclusive of all political stakeholders in Burma.

Do Mr. Gambari and the U.N. sincerely believe that these Generals will give up the golden opportunities they are enjoying now and share power with the democratic opposition which they detest so much? Do he and the U.N. truly believe that they can help change the rogue behavior and mindset of the hardline generals in Burma through mere suggestions?

The generals will, presumably, give up power in only two scenarios: either because they are forced to do so, or, if they are bought off with enough incentives. But Mr. Gambari and the U.N. have no power or leverage to present these options to the generals. Maybe, in order to accomplish the mission, it is time for Mr. Gambari and the U.N. to change tactics or replace their current Burmese advisors and experts.

No comments: