Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Myanmar needs our support… but the silence is deafening!

Hi friends,

Some of us have heard of the Prague Spring.

It was in 1958 when the then Czechoslovakia, had a unique opportunity to liberalise politically even though it was still part of the communist Warsaw Pact.

Alexander Dubcek briefly wrested power from pro-Soviet politicians and from January till August of that fateful year, Czechoslovakians had illusions of democracy and political freedom.

This short-lived “spring” tragically ended with invasion by the Warsaw Pact forces. The rest of the world just stood and watched.

There are similar names of places and countries where thousands and even millions perished whilst the world just stood and watched.

Srebrenica, Rwanda, Cambodia, Sabra and Shatila, Soweto and now Myanmar?

ASEAN has used the excuse of the "principle of non-interference" to wash its hands off the affairs of the Myanmar people.

Are we going to just sit on our hands and wait for the makings of another “Killing fields” before guilt forces all of us to act?

Is it not exceedingly obvious that the vast majority of Myanmar people want to be freed from the yoke of oppression, represented by the military junta? They have been denied freedom and democracy for far too long.

Bloggers, your silence is deafening!

Are we content to just concern ourselves with narrow issues affecting our personal lives while barely 3 hours away, our South-east Asian brethren are fighting for their lives even while I speak?

For sure, any posts about gay rights (pro or against) or about CPF and longevity would get all of us hot under the collars, but not articles about poor and far-off Myanmar.

Sad but that’s life. Uniquely Singapore?

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

ASEAN under pressure to act as Myanmar protests mountPosted: 25 September 2007 1425 hrs (AFP/Channelnewsasia)

KUALA LUMPUR : Southeast Asian nations have long been reluctant to confront their reviled neighbour Myanmar, but as protests mount in Yangon, observers say they risk losing credibility if they fail to act.

In the 10 years since it joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Myanmar has proved a major headache for the budding democracies of the region, who have been admonished by the west for failing to press for reforms.

"By any normal global international standards, ASEAN hasn't done much. I suspect many of the policymakers in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore or Jakarta or Manila will admit to that," said Hiro Katsumata from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

"But this is not surprising because ASEAN needs Myanmar more than Myanmar needs ASEAN," he said, adding that the region feared the resource-rich nation could turn its back on the grouping in favour of closer ties with China.
In the face of the bravery of more than 100,000 people who stood alongside Buddhist monks in the streets of Myanmar's biggest city on Monday, regional governments are now facing loud calls to show their support.

"ASEAN can obviously do a lot more -- it's just a question of whether they want to. And with this internal protest and defiance of the people, it would be shameful if they kept quiet," said Malaysian lawmaker Zaid Ibrahim.

"They should use all their diplomacy and power and influence to pressure the regime," said Zaid, president of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Caucus, which was formed in 2004 to push for democratic reform in Myanmar.

Zaid said he was sure that although the ruling generals had not yet done anything to halt a week of street protests led by the revered monks, they would eventually "hit back" and that lives would be lost.

"I would expect some severe reprisals and crackdowns and more brutality from the regime. I think this is inevitable and I think the people of Burma know this and I hope they will not be deterred by it."

So far there has been little response from regional governments except the Philippines, which said Monday it wants to see democracy flourish in Myanmar.

ASEAN secretary general Ong Keng Yong has merely said he hoped the protests will remain "peaceful and calm", and his predecessor Rodolfo Severino indicated that little else would be forthcoming.

"Very little -- they could deliver a statement," Severino told AFP when asked what options the 10-bloc grouping had.

"What else can they do? Send in troops? I don't think ASEAN's in a position to do that. I think this is something that has to be worked out by the government and people of Myanmar."

Stirred into action by the United States and European governments which were highly critical of its performance, ASEAN has come out with some unusually bold statements against Myanmar's military government in recent years.

But despite mutterings about introducing a mechanism to suspend or expel the military-run state from the 10-nation bloc, there has been no action to match the rhetoric.

Jawahar Hassan, director of Malaysia's Institute of Strategic and International Studies, said that with the stakes now so high, nations in the region are even less likely to intervene.

"If nothing is happening in Myanmar they can issue some strong statements because it would not be seen as supporting opposition to Myanmar," he said.

"But when all this is happening to have to be careful... ASEAN governments cannot be seen to be supporting any movement against the government which may turn out to be violent."

After years of saying that change in Myanmar must come from within, Southeast Asia is being warned that now that just such a scenario has presented itself, the region cannot stand idle.

"Certainly ASEAN will not look good," said Katsumata.

"Human rights and democracy are becoming important parts of global norms, so the slower the ASEAN approach is, the worse ASEAN will appear in the eyes of the international audience." - AFP/ir


Gerald said...

You're right Dr Huang. We really should care. I want to write something but don't know much besides what I read in the press. I don't want to email my friends there cos they may end up getting targeted by the authorities. (Since I've written articles criticising myanmar before.)

Let's just pray that this will be a peaceful revolution. I think the whole world is waiting in bated breath to see whether the junta will do a Tiananmen on the protestors.

nofearSingapore said...

Hi Gerald,
Even now, the most optimistic of us dare not wish for any positive outcome from this.
It seems almost inevitable that there would be bloodshed and Tiananmen II will quickly ensue.
But I remember the Berlin Wall and how it was a symbol of how unshakeable the Communist bloc was. But it fell quicker than a house of cards.
Miracles do happen.
I wish for Miracles in Myanmar!
Peace to all


Publia said...

Let's get a good graphic and get going on a campaign!

Anonymous said...

There is little we can do here. Talk is cheap, in this particular instance.

Unless you fly there and join the protest march or provide back up services, such as medical attention.

It is a short flight of 3 hours only, Dr Huang.

Anonymous said...

We may not be there physically, due to limits beyond our control. But, we can show our support by highlighting the sad stories about the country. Let's all tell the world and our friends about the horrors happening there.

Words of mouth can be very powerful.

Anonymous said...

Singaporeans who regularly chide Westerners for "interfering" in Singaporean "domestic matters" or ban Canadian professors from speaking about Singapore laws, should refrain from commenting on Burma's internal affairs.

Americans, on the other hand, never complain about foreigners interfering in their own domestic affairs. So they now have every right to comment on Burma, as Bush did today, about the junta's "reign of terror". Now I understand why PM Lee has nothing to say about Burma. Sad.

sarah said...

The recent crackdown by the junta and seeing civilians fleeing for their lives on TV is extremely saddening and heartbreaking. To protest against a repressive regime is a right and I believe, simmering tension in the country against its political system has resulted again, in a protest by the people.

International leaders and other countries have to do something MORE than simply issuing a statement that they are concerned. ASEAN cannot simply issue a 'coordinated' response. They HAVE to ensure that there are no ties with the junta whatsoever, especially on economic terms.

Hopefully, with international pressure, there will be lesser number of lives lost in the pursuit of freedom.