Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Has international diplomacy on Burma touched its zenith?

by Dr. Sein Myint
Wednesday, 10 December 2008 13:07

The 241 members of Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) called on the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to visit Burma and press for the release of political prisoners and kick start political reforms, after his refusal to a similar petition made by 112 former Presidents and Prime Ministers to him.

Instead, the UN Chief said "his direct involvement was "not enough" to resolve the current political stalemate in Burma" and redirected the onus to the Group of Friends on Burma 'to use their influence, available leverage and tools" to mount pressure on the Burmese military leaders. Most particularly, of her immediate neighbours China, India and Thailand.

Has international diplomacy on Burma reached its zenith? Or to put it more bluntly, has the UN's shuttle diplomacy arrived at a dead-end? Depending on one's perspectives on UN effectiveness and role, some might say 'aye' and some might say 'nay'.

The 'nayers' would say that the ultimate authority of the UN lies with its Security Council that could still adopt a binding resolution on Burma if there are 'No' veto from five permanent member 'PM' states. However, the 'ayers' would argue that this is unlikely to happen, especially the two PMs, i.e. the Chinese and the Russians, allies of the Burmese junta, will not allow passage of any resolution on Burma initiated and proposed by the US and her Western allies under the current geo-political circumstances.

And many past and present world conflicts that UN has failed to prevent and act on, perhaps for many reasons, attest and add strong support to the pessimistic 'ayers' on UN ineffectiveness. However, the optimist 'nayers' would cast a long short based on the 'dynamic' nature of politics, that eventual possibility of international consensus is still likely to obtain if the global polarization can be reduced dramatically resultant of the incoming US new administration.

But, as one former diplomat pointed out that the 'good offices' of the UN Secretary General provided services as mandated by the General Assembly but is under no instruction from the Security Council. Without any resolution from the Security Council, the UN SG has no power to act and enforce upon any member state.

It is evident that the ruling military government in Burma was determined and carefully planning to control political power in the country for a long time. Starting from the secretive construction of the new capital in the jungle years before to the recent long prison sentencing of political opposition activists and potential dissidents, clearly demonstrated their preparedness to face any internal or external pressure exerted on them.

The recent discovery of natural energy resources help the Generals to cultivate closer economic relationships with willing and eager energy starved neighbours, effectively breaking those selective economic sanctions imposed by the US and the West. Furthermore, deepening polarization between the West and Russians helps provide the shrewd military generals opportunity to exploit the geopolitics to their advantage, able to block any proposed and intended resolution initiated by the US and her allies at the UNSC.

Such ineffectiveness and powerlessness of the UN has frustrated many Burmese exiled students and activists who are compelled to ask questions on the impotence of this international diplomacy. And thus start calling upon their fellow countrymen and women to rise up on the basis of self reliance and to shed the 'dependant mentality' dominating the exiled political leadership for the last two decades.

As Newton's third law of nature implied that on each and every action there are equal and opposite reaction, thus, it is naturally only a matter of time when equal reactionary forces would emerge to counter the injustice inside Burma. As shown in many political histories, once political problems could not be solved peacefully, desperation would force discontented individual(s) seeking alternative options to counter the injustice.

Therefore, it is imperative that key democratic countries should help unite the exiled Burmese democratic movement to form a broad grass-root based democratic umbrella global organization that has the mandate of exiled communities across the globe. Under the prevailing political circumstances, the united but not fragmented exiled community is the only viable force left to lead the restoration of democracy in Burma peacefully while countering current military rulers' seven step road map in the long run.

[Dr. Sein Myint is the director of Policy Development of Justice for Human Rights in Burma, located in Maryland, USA . He is an Honorary Member of Amnesty International Chapter 22 in Washington D.C.]

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