Volume VIII. No. V. September-October 2005
Chin Human Rights Organization
TABLE OF CONTENTS
• A Chin Girl Raped by Burmese Soldier
• 5 Teenaged Girls Among 18 Porters Forced to Carry Army Supplies
• Chin Women Compel to Join MWAF by Junta
• SPDC Takes Credits for New Bridge Built with Forced Labor
• Chin Villagers Fined for Failure to Provide Forced Labor
• Villagers Ordered to Cut Bamboo for Army Camp
• 12 Villages Exacted for Forced Labor at New Army Camp
Extortion & Power Abuse:
• Army Officer Demands Deer Skins and Chicken from Chin Villagers
• Township Authorities Collect Illegal Tax from Students
• Burmese Army Robbed from Cross Border Traders
• Burmese Troop Robbed 300,000 Kyats From Cattle Traders
• Five Civilians Hospitalized As Burmese Army Rage over Loss of Football Match with Civilians
• Online Interview: Talking About Human Rights
Opinion & Commentary:
• The Dragon is Looking Askance : Chinese Policy and the Moral Authority of the Security Council (By Kanbawza Win)
• Statement of Condolence on the Death of Dr. Vumson Suantak
Back Cover Poem:
• A Boring Worm (By Van Biak Thang)
A Chin Girl Raped by Burmese Soldier
12 October, 2005
Aizawl: A Burmese soldier from Light Infantry Battalion 395 stationed at Kyauk Daw, Arakan State raped a Chin girl on 18 September 2005. The victim is a resident of Daungmi Kala Village. She was accosted on her way home from a night Church service and sexually assaulted at gunpoint by the soldier, a local villager testified to Chin Human Rights Organization.
The assailant soldier was identified as private Soe Aung from amy patrol unit commanded by Captain Myint Naing Oo.
On 18 September, Captain Myint Naing Oo and 15 of his men arrived at Daungmi Kala village to spend the night. Private Soe Aung was assigned for sentry duty at the house of U Ling Phai, the victim’s father, located at the outskirts of the village. At around 10:00 p.m, the girl walked home from a church where she attended a night service. But when private Soe Aung saw the girl approaching home alone, he sexually assaulted her at gunpoint.
“It’s very sad because people will see her as no longer impure and no body would want to marry such a girl and she will be stigmatized,” said Maung Thein Aye, a local villager. “She is so ashamed to go out and has been crying inside her house,” he said.
U Ling Phai, the victim’s father reported the matter to Captain Myint Naing Oo, the assailant’s commanding officer, but he was told to take the matter to court. Kyauk Daw Township Court released private Soe Aung after ordering him to pay 30,000 Kyats ($30 US) in compensation to the victim.
5 Teenaged Girls Among 18 Porters Forced to Carry Army Supplies
9 October, 2005
Aizawl: 5 girls under the age of 15 were among 18 civilian porters forced to carry army supplies in Matupi Township, a local villager told Chin Human Rights Organization. On 2 August, 2005, Sergeant Thein Win, commander of Sabawngte army outpost from Matupi-based Light Infantry Battalion (304) ordered 18 Sabawngte villagers including 5 teenaged girls to transport army goods.
On 12 August, the same officer ordered another 3 teenaged girls and 7 civilian men to transport goods from Sabawngte army camp to Sabawngpi village. The porters carried 30 Viss (45 Kgs) of dried pork meat, 27 chickens, 2 tins of sticky rice, 20 Viss of chilli, 150 lemons and 100 mangoes. The goods are gifts from the Sergeant to Major Tin Aung, Commander of Light Infantry Battalion 304 based in Matupi.
“Each person, including the girls, was given about 15 Viss to carry. The load was already heavy enough even for men so eveybody had to take a little extra off of the girls. There was no way the girls could’ve travelled 12 miles with such heavy loads on their backs,” explained.
Chin Women Compel to Join MWAF by Junta
27 September, 2005.
Colonel San Aung, commander of Burma army tactical II from Matupi, Chin state issued an order to all members of village council in Matupi township to distribute membership form of Myanmar Women Affairs Federation (MWAF) on August 9. According to the order, every woman over the age of 18 have to join the Federation with 320 Kyats membership fee.
“When I went to Matupi town to draw my monthly salary at Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) office, Colonel San Aung asked me to pass 400 sheets of MWAF membership form to each members of our village council for sale,” reported a clerk of the Village Council in Matupi, who prefer to remain anonymous in fear of reprisal from the army.
He continued, “as soon as I reach my village on August 11, I hand over the membership forms to the head of the VC; but so far even a single copy had not been sold as most of the women in the village could not afford.”
All Women over 18 years old are compelled to buy the forms that conscript them to be the member of MWAF which cost Three hundred and twenty kyats per copy.
MWAF was formed in July 3, 1996, with a former name ‘Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affair’, which was reconstituted as the MWAF on December 20, 2003. The Federation reportedly has about 1.5 million members.
Daw Than Than Nwe is head of MWAF. The other top positions of the organization at the township and village level are occupied by the wives of the military authorities.
Similar drive for enlisting membership of MWAF is reportedly conducted through out Chin state.
Meanwhile, most of village heads are nerve-racked for the possible action against them for failure to sell the membership form.
SPDC Takes Credits for New Bridge Built with Forced Labour
September 26, 2005
Aizawl: A sign posted on a river crossing bridge which was recently built with forced labor had offended local villagers who contributed free labor for the construction. The sign reads: “This bridge was built with a 1.8 million Kyats donated by General Tha Aye, Commander of Northwestern Command.” The suspension bridge was built over Sarawng river, located between Sumsen and Tangku villages of Matupi Township.
More than 300 households from 8 villages were compelled to donate 500 Kyats per each household in November 2004 under a requisition order issued by Colonel San Aung, Commander of Tactical Command II based in southern Chin State. Additionally, the order required each household to saw designated amount of wood planks for the construction of the bridge.
“Villagers put in everything from the money and materials to human labor for the construction. All the government contributed was steel cables,” complained U Pum Za Mang, Chairman of the Village Peace and Development Council of XXX village. “Claiming that the budget sanctioned for the bridge was in deficit, the authorities are charging 50 Kyats from people passing through the bridge so they can repay the ‘debts’,” he said.
“We weren’t even aware of there being a government budget for the bridge until they put up the sign,” complained another local villager who participated in the construction.
Started in December of 2004, the suspension bridge measures 580 feet in length and 6 feet in width. The following villages were forced to contribute money and free labor for the building of the bridge.
(1) Tanku Village (62 households)
(2) Reng Khen Village (40 households)
(3) Am Lai Village (30 households)
(4) Pa Khen Village (32 households)
(5) Sumsen Village (60 households)
(6) Ti Nam Village (34 households)
(7) Tisi Village (64 households)
(8) Tawngla Village (20 households)
Chin Villagers Fined for Failure to Provide Forced Labour
On 20 September, 2005, ten villages in Paletwa Township of southern Chin State were fined 3000 Kyats per village for failure to collect round bamboos for the Burmese army, according to information received from Chairman of Village Peace and Development Council from XXX village.
On 16 September, 2005, Major Myint Aung, Deputy Commander of Light Infanty Battalion 374 ordered 20 villages in Paletwa Township to provide round bamboos. Each village was required to provide 1000 sticks of round bamboo but 10 of the 20 villages were not able to provide them. The affected villages were:
(1) Mara Hlan (2) Kho Ywa (3) Auh Ywa (4) Shwe Letwa (5) Shwe Oo Wa (6)Ma U (7) Ywa U (8) Heema Thee (9) Pai De and (10) Saiha.
Major Myint Aung was reported to have sold the bamboos he forcibly collected from the villages for his personal profit. The bamboos are made into rafts and floated down Kaladan River to Sittwe of Arakan where each stick was sold for 35 Kyats.
Villagers Ordered to Cut Bamboo for Army Camp
September 15, 2005
Aizawl: Lieutenant Saw Lwin Win, company commander of Burmese army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 289 based in Sinletwa, Paletwa township ordered 30 villagers from Salangpi village to cut 3,000 rounds of Bamboo pole for the army camp. The Lieutenant further ordered the forced laborers that the bamboo pole has to be 15 feet long and the job had to be completed within four days. The forced laborers began their work on August 3, 2005.
“We cut the bamboo without rest for three days and we were ordered to transport the bamboo we cut from the forest to the army camp on the fourth day which is about one and a half mile away” said one of the forced laborers.
“One of the forced laborers was bitten by a snake while performing the job. When we took him to the platoon medic for treatment, we were told that all the medicines and the army medic are not for civilians. Thus we had to go to civilian clinic with our own expense.
The forced laborers had to bring their own food and tools to work.
At the end of the work, we were called by the platoon commander and told us that
1) any one who wants to cross the border have to pay 500 Kyats to the camp for permission
2) The villagers must sent at least a viss of Chicken to the camp without fail. 2000 Kyats will be fined upon failure to deliver a viss of Chinken
3) The villagers must report any CNF activities around the area, failure to do so will result in 200,000 Kyats fine and severe punishment.
12 Villages Exacted for Forced Labor at New Army Camp
September 20, 2005
Aizawl: Hundreds of villagers from Darling village and surrounding 12 villages were forced to construct a new army camp at Darling village by Captain Than Htun Soe of Burma army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 304 based in Matupi town.
The forced labor situation was reported to CHRO by xxxxx village headman.
Hundreds of villagers were forced to engage in construction of the new army camp starting from July and still going on at the time of this report. The villagers are forced to construct four barracks which is 15 X 10 in size. Besides the construction of the barracks, the villagers are forced to dig bunkers and trenches for the entire camp with.
The villagers have to bring their own tools and food at the forced labor site.
The village headman complained that; the Burmese army is pushing the Chin people into poverty and untold sufferings. The villagers have no time to work for themselves in their farm. The army is on the rampage to shot and eat any domestic they found in the village without compensation.
Besides the forced labor they have performed in the army camp, the following villagers were forced to transport construction material such as zinc, nail etc from Saiha town of Mizoram state which is three days walks from Darling army camp.
The villages those who are forced to transport construction materials are;
Ngaphaipi, Sabawngpi, Hlungmang, Fartlang, Lungcawi, Tisih, Mala, Sabaw, Thawnglalung, and Khuapilu, Pintia, and Darling.
Army Officer Demands Deer Skins and Chicken from Chin Villagers
4 October, 2005
Aizawl: On 19 August, 2005, Captain Thein Hteik Soe, Patrol Column Commander from Matupi-based Light Infantry Battalion 304, forcibly demanded deer skins and chickens from residents of 14 villages in Matupi Township. The villages were recently included in the jurisdictional area of a new army camp at Dar Ling village, which is commanded by the officer.
U Bisa, Chairman of the Village Peace and Development Council from XXX village explained, “We received a written order on August 19, 2005 demanding that our village deliver 2 deer skins within 6 days. Each household in our village has to chip in 1800 Kyats to buy the deer skins for the officer. I had to personally deliver the goods to the Captain.”
Hlung Mang village also received a similar order on August 27 along with a summons to attend a meeting at Dar Ling army camp to discuss ‘important troop matters.’ The village headman made a delivery of 2 chickens and 2 deer skins at the army camp on August 29, 2005.
Since Captain Thein Hteik Soe took command of the area in July of 2005, residents of the 14 villages have been forced to work in various forced labor programs virtually every day of the week. The forced labor includes digging trenches and bunkers, fencing the army camps, carrying roofing materials and sawing woods.
Township Authorities Collect Illegal Tax from Students
10 October, 2005
Aizawl: During the first week of September 2005, students in middle and high schools in Thantlang Town of northern Chin State were compelled to ‘donate’ 500 Kyats per person to support the cost of providing hospitality to visting senior military official.
According to a retired public servant, the Township Peace and Development Council Chairman U Shwe Soe collected ‘donations’ from students to pay for the cost of entertaining General Tha Aye, Commander of North Western Command who was visiting the town in October, 2005.
“I have three children who are in school and I had to pay 1500 Kyats. We can barely make ends meet and it is absolutely ridiculous that we had to pay for entertaining the General,” complained the former bureaucrat.
There are about 6000 students in both middle school and high school in Thantlang.
Burmese Soldiers Robbed from Cross Border Traders
August 26, 2005
Aizawl: A platoon of the Burmese army led by a captain (name unknown) from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 266 robbed 100,000 Kyats from a woman cross border trader at a teashop near Sialam village in Thantlang township on August 18, 2005. The incident was reported to the CHRO by the victim named Pi Mami herself.
Pi Mami 45 years old is residence of Tahan, Sagaing division. Pi Mami and her son in law were on their way to sell clothes to Mizoram when they met with a platoon of Burmese army at a teashop near Sialam village.
Pi Mami inform the CHRO that; “The Burmese (army) captain stop us at the teashop and inquiry the value of the goods and demanded vouchers. I showed them all the vouchers I have. Then the captain and his troops demanded 100,000 kyats. All the money I have was only 52,000 kyats at that time. So I beg the captain and his troops to mercy on me and accept all the money I have 52,000 kyats as I am just a woman making a living by selling small goods to Mizoram. The captain told me to shut up and said that he wants 100,000 kyats. I was so terrified and at last borrowed money with a big interest from the teashop and give it to the captain.”
On the next day on August 19, 2005 another group of cross border traders were robbed by the same Burmese captain and his troops at the same place.
Pu Lian Kio and his friends with three horses were on their way to sell good to Mizoram. When they reach near Sialam village at a teashop, the Burmese captain stoped them and demanded 100,000 kyats from them. Pu Lian Kio and his friends have only 19,000 kyats at that time and they beg the captain to accept all the money they have which is 19,000 kyats. However, the captain said that he will arrest them all if they refuse to pay 100,000 kyats. Thus Pu Lian Kio had to borrow money to pay the captain from Humhalh village which is 3 miles away.
The local residence inform the CHRO field workers that the captain and his troops have been in the same teashop since the first week of August and they robbed from many cross border traders.
Burmese Troop Robbed 300,000 Kyats From Cattle Traders
September 1, 2005
Aizawl: A Captain of Burmese army and his troops from LIB 268 Falam based battalion has robbed more than 300,000 kyats from cross border cattle traders. The incident was reported to CHRO field workers by one of the victims who prefer to remain anonymous.
The cattle traders were stopped by the Burmese troops between Selawn and Leilet village. The Burmese troop demanded 600,000 Kyats saying that all the three cattle traders will be arrested and sent to hard labor camp and confiscated all their cattle if they fail to pay 600,000 kyats.
The victim said that; since we have only 20,000 Kyats, we beg the Captain and his troops to have mercy on us as we are so poor and trying to make a living by selling piglets to Mizoram.
At last, I went to Leilet village to borrow money to pay the Burmese army. All I can borrow was only 300,000 kyats. So, I come back to the army and beg them to accept all the money I could manage. The captain and his troop come to realize that we could not borrow the money they demanded and took all the money we could manage which is 320,000 Kyats. (300,000 Kyats we borrowed and 20,000 Kyats we have). We were release only after that.
“It really is very difficult to make a living now. I do not know how are we going to live in a situation like this” said the trader.
Five Civilians Injure, Some Hospitalized As Burmese Army Rage over Loss of Football Match with Civilians
25 September 2005: Five civilians hospitalized as the army went frenzy over their loss to a civilian team, and not receiving supports from the on lookers at a football match with civilian team in Matupi, southern Chin state.
A man from Matupi town informed our reporter that the Burmese soldiers were out of control on 9th September, when the public gave more support to civilian team in the “Tactical Commander Cup” football tournament semi final match with Burma’s Infantry Battalion (IB) 304 team. The tournament was organized by Colonel San Aung, commander of Burma army tactical II.
The Burmese army badly beaten up the civilian on lookers that five people have to be hospitalized. One young man named Salai Phone Ta 25 of Ka Ce village was beaten up by the Burmese soldiers with the bud of their service rifles and badly injured. His eyes and face was severely wounded, probably damage. He was hospitalized in Matupi Civil Hospital.
The man from Matupi said; “The commander of Tactical II was also there when the incident occurred. He made no reaction neither prevented his men.
The final match was played on 12th September. There was reportedly less crowd to watch the match.
Several civil servants, youth and civilians along with the Burmese army Battalion 304 based in Matupi participated in the annual monsoon football season.
Online Interview: Talking About Human Rights
September 21, 2005
[Rhododendron Note: The following online interview is conducted by a group of students from Department of Social Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, University of the Philippines Manila to Salai Bawi Lian Mang of Chin Human Rights Organization regarding present human rights situation in Burma]
Question 1: What is the current situation in Myanmar regarding human rights violations? Is the human rights situation getting better or worse?
Salai Bawi Lian Mang: In terms of human rights situation in Burma (I prefer to use the term Burma instead of Myanmar), as you may have been aware of, Burma is currently ruled by military junta called State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Since the Burmese military took the state power after killing thousands of innocent people in 1988, gross violation of human rights is rampantly committed by the military regime including political suppression, arbitrary detention, torture, rape, disappearances, extra-judicial killings, oppression of ethnic and religious minorities, and use of forced labor.
At present, there are more than one thousand political prisoners still detained in Jail. The country’s pro-democracy leader, and the 1991 Noble Peace Price winner Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest.
Today, Burma ranks the second largest opium producing country in the world. As such, the ruling military regime is directly involved in trading an illicit drugs that also further intensified the deteriorating conditions of the political crisis, civil war, and human rights.
In addition to drugs, the spread of HIV/AIDS is of great concern that can affect the regional stability in the near future. Burma after India and Thailand has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection cases in Asia. HIV/AIDS epidemic is mainly caused by drug addiction, lack of knowledge and prevention program in the country.
There is a report made by Shan Women Action Networks that the Burmese military regime is using rape as weapon of wars against an ethnic Shan. The report details 173 incidents of rape and other forms of sexual violence, involving 625 girls and women, committed by Burmese soldiers in Shan State, between 1996 and 2001.
In terms of University education, the military regime in Burma has blatantly denied and violated the right to education by constantly closing the universities and colleges across the country for about 9 years within the past 17 years. The main reason behind the Junta’s closure of Universities and Colleges in the country is solely because of the fact that the military regime views students as a potential threat to their dictatorial rule as in the past, students are the only vocal group that have been standing fearlessly against the military regime.
Besides, the use of forced labor is so widespread that the International Labor Organization (ILO) has even expelled Burma from the ILO for the regime’s widespread use of forced labor.
Hundred of thousands of refugees are taking refuge in neighboring countries. And they all claim that they have fled their homeland due to unbearable human rights violations committed by the Burmese military regime.
These facts are a very brief human rights situation in Burma and we can say that there is no tangible improvement in terms of human rights situation in Burma.
Question 2: How does the current Myanmar government treat ethnic minorities at present?
Salai Bawi Lian Mang: The present Burmese military junta which made its way to power through a bloody coup in 1988 has ruled the country at gunpoint. Preoccupied by the idea of “national unity or unifying the country,” Burma’s military regime has embarked on a policy of creating a single national identity based on the policy of “Amyo, Batha, Thatana” or One race, One Language, One Religion” in other words “to be a Burman is to be a Buddhist” through assimilating all identifiable ethnic minority groups into the mainstream Burman society, a dominant ethnic group with which the regime identifies itself.
Even though an overall human rights situation in Burma as a whole is at a very deplorable situation, the fact that the non-Burman ethnic nationalities “ethnic minorities groups” are the ones who suffer the most at the hand of xenophobic Burmese military regime.
The Burmese military regime is using every method to eliminate the identifiable ethnic identities of the ethnic minorities in the country. In Shan state they use rape as weapons of wars against the ethnic Shan (please see Shan Women Action Network website at
www.shanwomen.org), while in Chin state, they use religious persecutions as a tools of ethnocide against Chin Christians (Please see, www.chro.org), and in Mon, Karen and Karenni state, they used mass relocation, confiscation of land and other forms of human rights violations that it is impossible or very difficult to survive as a people for the non-Burman ethnic nationalities groups in Burma.
As a result of all these atrocities, there are hundreds of thousands of refugees, most if not all of them, are non-Burman ethnic nationalities taking refuge in neighboring countries, such as, Thailand, India, Malaysia and Bangladesh.
Question 3: What are the actions taken by local organizations and student unions regarding the human rights violations?
Salai Bawi Lian Mang: Well, if you look at the modern history of Burma in terms of student movements as I briefly alluded to, students have always been at the forefront of political movement. Indeed, the present military regime fully understands the critical role of students and that is the very reason why the junta closed universities and colleges in the country for about 9 years within the past 16 years. The military regime views students as a threat to their dictatorial rule. As a result, students are under constant scrutiny of military intelligence apparatus. Forming students union is illegal in Burma. However, despite such scrutiny and restrictions, students are also the most energetic and vocal group that have been working fearlessly against the military regime.
Question 4: Do you think Myanmar’s relationship with ASEAN countries had been significantly affected by the country’s human rights issues? How?
Salai Bawi Lian Mang: Yes, in deed, Burma’s human rights record and practice has been a major concern since the beginning or even before allowing Burma to join the club of ASEAN. In the beginning, leaders of ASEAN have insisted that the notion of constructive engagement will improve human rights situation in Burma which will eventually lead Burma into democratization.
However, after almost a decade of admitting Burma into the club, ASEAN leaders come to realize that their so-called “constructive engagement” is not working or even failing in terms of promoting human rights and democracy in Burma. As you are aware, Burma had postponed the seat of its rotating chairmanship of ASEAN which was supposed to be in effect in July 2006. I would like to quote the latest Amnesty International report on this regards; “During the ASEAN(1) Ministerial meeting in Vientiane, Laos in July 2005, the SPDC Foreign Minister announced that Myanmar would postpone chairing ASEAN, which the country was due to assume in July 2006, amid reports that the SPDC had delayed the move to avoid further EU and US Government censure and potential conflict within ASEAN itself.”
In recent years, we have seen some ASEAN leaders voicing their concern about human rights situation in Burma and in supports of democratization in the country. It is encouraging and a positive sign.
Question 5: Has the current government in Myanmar received any sanctions from the international community regarding human rights violations?
Salai Bawi Lian Mang: Yes, there are some countries and especially from the West, who are imposing sanctions against the Burmese military regime. The European Union, the United States and Canada have been in the forefront of imposing sanctions against the Burmese junta.
In 2003, President Bush enacted Burma Freedom and Democracy Act in response to the continued and systematic violations of human rights by the Burmese military junta.
The Canadian House of Commons has passed the Burma Motion in May 2005 calling on the Canadian Government to condemn more forcefully the repeated and systematic human rights violations committed by the military junta in power in Burma.
Since 1991, the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights have for 14 consecutive years adopted consensus resolutions condemning the Burmese military junta’s systematic violations of human rights.
Starting from 1999, the US Department of State, Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor annual report on international religious freedom report has branded Burma as country of particular concern for its widespread practice of religious persecution against minority religions such as Christians.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has expelled Burma from the ILO for the regime’s notorious records of its widespread use of forced labor.
These are some of the actions taken by international communities regarding Burma’s human rights practice.
Question 6: In your opinion, what should be the role of the international community in addressing the human rights violations in Myanmar?
Salai Bawi Lian Mang: International community plays an important role in support of promoting human rights situation and democratization in Burma. As you may be aware of, the root cause of human rights violations and all atrocities happening in Burma is due to the political conflict/crisis- it is rooted in political reason. Thus, in order to promote human rights situation in Burma, we must solve political conflict first. In terms of solving political conflict in Burma, there is a strategy first called for by the United Nations that is called “tripartite dialogue” which means since the root cause of human rights violations and conflict is political, this should be solved by political means by having a political dialogue between three main political stake holders in Burma; that includes present military regime who are in power, and National League for Democracy (NLD) who won 1990 election and the collective forces of non-Burman Ethnic Nationalities in the country. And this “tripartite dialogue” is endorsed by two major political stake holders both Ethnic Nationalities Council and National League for Democracy.
Thus, to sum up the situation, it is very important for the international community especially ASEAN countries to support the emergence of tripartite dialogue that will be the beginning of solving the country’s political crisis by political means.
At present, two noble peace laureate South African archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Czech president Vaclav Havel are calling the UN Security Council to tackle Burma issue. It will be great if your government the government of Philippines endorse this proposal as one of the present elected UN Security Council members.
Opinion & Commentary:
The Dragon is Looking Askance
Chinese Policy and the Moral Authority of the Security Council
By Kanbawza Win
September 29, 2005
America, a good friend of the Burmese people, if not the world, has decided again to put Burma on the agenda of the Security Council. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric G. John told the House of Representatives Sub-committee on Asia and the Pacific that the US remained “deeply concerned about the safety and welfare of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners,” in a new bid following a joint call by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, for immediate action. This welcoming news initiated by the two Nobel Peace laureates’ rings like New Year bells to the entire people of Burma, in spite of the blocking by Russia and China last June. At least there is a flickering light of hope at the end of a long tunnel of a half-century under military boots.
But will that flickering light be blown out when the two permanent members, which have a long recorded history of dictatorial rule, say “Nay” and indirectly support the Junta to continue in power. That is everybody’s question. Will the moral authority of these two Nobel Laureates who represent billions of people be able to sway the stone hearts of the leaders of Russia and China will soon be known in the coming October meeting of the United Nations Security Council?
Chinese Policy and the Moral Authority of the Security Council
Burma has 2,185 km of common border with China and the shadow of China is always keenly felt in Burma. An old fable says that if China spits Burma will drown. It seems that what Napoleon said has come to be true “Let the sleeping dragon lie if it awakens the world will be sorry.” But let us see what China aspires to be. The outside world watches China with amazement, and often enough, too, with twinges of discomfort China has just launched a joint war games with its long time adversary Russia, in a show of military might that makes Uncle Sam nervous. The very basic, yet unanswered, questions are still to be answered. No matter how fast its economy grows, can a country make a successful transition to great-power status without real friendships, without associating itself meaningfully with any global ideal, or without bearing a more generous share of humanity’s burdens?
Today, no nation of any import seems likely to copy China’s model of government, despite its many successes. But that doesn’t mean that any bid by Beijing for a larger mission in the world is merely a waste of time, much less that it is doomed to failure. At its most influential time, China has always represented an alternative to the West. Under Chairman Mao, many poor nations eagerly drew inspiration from this country based on a naïve appreciation of Chinese realities, but also because China was perceived as being on their side in their struggles against colonial rule and in their struggles for development in a global economy that appeared meanly skewed against the poor. Unless one is talking trade, with rare exception, China is absent from the lives of these countries today. The global rush, amid intense press scrutiny, to aid the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami seemed to prod Beijing to action, perhaps not wanting to be absent from the lists of major countries making large donations. But if proof were needed that there has been no change in outlook, no new internationalist reflex formed, China has been largely invisible amid reports of famine that are devastating and threatening several other countries in West Africa. Previously, the Chinese construed that Africa is far away and shouldn’t rank as a serious concern. Today, however, China’s state companies are scouring the continent for business as they never have before, including Sudan in the midst of genocide, and if Africa looms large on the map for oil or trading profits, it stands to reason it should also count for something in more human terms.
Ultimately, the critical question in assessing China as a great power is how she behaves. What matters most is not so much the growth of Chinese power but how and for what purposes a rising China will actually wield its putative or actual power in the conduct of its international relations. Despite “realpolitik” in global institutions, a policy of multilateral integration coupled with multilateral containment is a more feasible and desirable option than a policy of bilateral engagement. Enmeshing China more fully in a global network of mutually interactive and beneficial multilateral regimes could more easily contain and even possibly transform from within China’s unilateral free-riding or defective behavior
The failure of Chinese leaders vision in such moments not only hurts the world’s other weak nations but it also weakens the global system itself. It is also a proof that the Chinese do not attach any importance to international friendships. Whether at the individual level, or for the nation as a whole, getting rich quick, it seems, is all that matters. Perhaps that is why the Burmese named them Ta Yoke; directly translated means Mr. Mean. China is getting closer to and is opting for superpower status, but its rhetoric of “peaceful rise,” and “harmonious society,” seems to be just an empty-sounding slogan, “If things continue like this into the future, with no change, I don’t think China will be able to become a real power, ” commented Prof. Shi Yinghong from the Faculty of International Relations of the People’s University of Beijing, “because its ideological and moral influence in the world will be quite limited.”
The UN Security Council
Although the engagement of the ethno-democratic groups for stronger UN measures is nothing new, prominent figures have joined the cause thereby indicating the seriousness of the UN. In the meantime, the US is losing patience with the generals in Rangoon. The people of Burma do not harbor a single doubt over the good intentions of UN actions in the past, but from now on more effective and consistent planning and action are necessary. This time the onus has fallen on the UN Security Council. For the past one and half decade the UN have failed to bring reform to Burma. Two UN envoys on Burma, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Paulo Sergio Pinheiro and the Secretary General’s own special envoy, Razali Ismail, have been effectively barred from visiting the country. Compared to the global poverty problem, the conflict in Western Darfur and North Korea’s nuclear threat, the Burma issue occupies only a sub-folder in world politics. That may be one of the reasons why the Russian Ambassador to the UN made the comment that Burma is a trivial matter to be put on the Security Council agenda as the Council was occupied with “matters of international peace and security”.
Now the Nobel Laureates had unraveled the hypocrisy of the UN Security Council. They have fortified that the problem of Burma is “far worse” than in countries where the Council had previously intervened. The whole world including the people of Burma as represented by the NLD and even the ASEAN Parliamentarian, has agreed that the country is a serious threat to international peace and security. We are wondering what lame excuses the representatives of the two dictatorial countries will give at the Council. We hope and pray that the scenario of the Korea crisis of the 50s will not be repeated, when the Russian ambassador withdrew from the Security Council paving the way for the Korean War. But again here nobody can under estimate the fraternity of the dictatorial regimes especially at a time when the dictatorial regimes of the world are dying one by one? This is the third time that democratic countries have tried to put Burma on the agenda and to every body’s knowledge, the five factors for the UN Security Council’s criteria to take actions are already in place. They are: –
• the overthrow of the democratically elected government,
• conflict among government bodies and insurgent armies or armed ethnic groups,
• widespread internal humanitarian or human rights violations,
• substantial overflow of refugees, and
• cross border problems such as drugs and human trafficking etc.
The short history of the Security Council indicates that in 1997 it took actions when Sierra Leone committed four offences (1 to 4), Afghanistan in 1996 for four beastly acts (2 to 4), Haiti, in 1993 for the breach of two only (2 & 3), in 1993, Rwanda for three bloody counts (2 to 5), Liberia in 1992 for two counts (2&4) and Cambodia one count only. But in the case of Burma all the above five factors are present viz. the overthrow of the democratically elected government was done in 1962 and again in 1990 when election results were not honoured. Conflict with the government and ethnic factions; has been going on for half a century with non-binding ceasefires and consistent fighting. Widespread Human Rights Violations are evident, such as destruction of villages, massive forced relocations, systematic rape, ethnic cleansing, forced labour and over 70,000 child soldiers breaking the records of any other countries. Outflow of refugees; can be clearly seen in the neighbouring countries. Officially there are 800,000 refugees while another 2 to 3 million are Internally Displaced Persons and numerous migrant workers in Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Laos and China. Drug Production, Human Trafficking and HIV/AIDs; are all well known. Next to Afghanistan, Burma is the biggest heroin and amphetamine stimulants producing country in the world.
The severity of these factors, compounded with the spread of HIV/AIDS and the failure of the regime to implement any reform or enable outside organizations to facilitate progress, makes the overall magnitude of the crises more threatening to international peace. Hence it has become a clear historical duty for the UN Security Council to restore Peace, Promote National Reconciliation and facilitate the return of Federal Democratic rule. Since Burma is one of the worst of all the problems ever tackled by the Security Council it would be inhuman for any permanent member to veto the UNSC resolution.
Position of Strength
The excesses of the Burmese army over its own population have appalled human rights activists around the world. Many moral and responsible political leaders cannot understand how the situation in Burma has been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent for one and half decades. It is only now that there is some possibility of raising the issue at the Security Council and even then success depends on the whims and fancies of the representatives of China and Russia.
The international community has called for change in Burma and morally and financially supported the Burmese democracy movement. They have worked to change conditions in Burma through sanctions, and have embarked in international forums including the United Nations, ASEM, ASEAN, and networks of parliamentarians, politicians, and non-government organizations.
The current Burmese Junta has adopted a policy of betraying the very concept of truth not only to the people of Burma but also to the world. It will never negotiate unless from the position of strength with their adversaries. This has been clearly evident in their negotiations with the ethnic armed forces and most of the ceasefire groups, which were compelled to surrender or to become impotent. However, in the case of the democracy movement it has been different, for when the Junta realize that they are having an upper hand they would released Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to ease the international pressure but when they discovered that they are losing ground and that the mass of the people were following Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (NLD), they resorted to violence and assassinations as the “Depayin” episodes indicates.
So if the UN Security Council dealt the Burmese problem, there is every possibility that the Junta will seriously come to the negotiating table, for the UNSC is the only UN organization that has “teeth” with the ability to bite as the past history demonstrates.
Nowadays, any major international decisions are made by consensus. Unilateral decisions taken by any individual country, even if it is a super power are usually frowned upon. The classic examples are the American decision on Afghanistan and Iraq. Passing the UNSC resolutions means achieving the consensus. We are quite positive that the Burmese Junta will come to the negotiating table. Otherwise, it will have to suffer the consequences by being forcibly removed through international intervention or armed struggle from within with the help of the UN. In other words, the UN intervention is urgently needed in the Burmese case.
To most people, ‘intervention’ implies ‘physical intervention by armed force’. Some Burmese have called for the USA to intervene in Burma a la Iraq. Others want a U.N. peacekeeping force. But the Burmese ethno-democrats, in general, want political intervention. They are not so much in favour of military intervention. The experience of external military intervention in the Asia region in recent times has not been good – Tibet (China), Korea (UN), Vietnam (USA), East Timor & Papua (Indonesia), Cambodia (Vietnam, USA & UN), Bangladesh (India), Sri Lanka (India), Afghanistan (USA), and Iraq (USA) – to name a few.
If possible the Burmese ethno-democracy movement realize that military intervention by any external power should be avoided at all costs because it will undermine Burma as a nation and be detrimental to the people of Burma. The territorial integrity of Burma and its sovereignty must be upheld. Political intervention, however, is a different question. Burma is a member nation of ASEAN. When Burma affects the collective well being of ASEAN, it is the duty of all ASEAN members to help Burma resolve its internal problems. Helping does not mean ‘intervention’ by force or political coercion. Helping means to seriously investigate the problem and to suggest possible solutions that could be acceptable to all concerned parties. Now it is found that China, India and ASEAN have intervene economically on the side of the Junta marginalizing the ethno democracy forces and even winning some of the Burmese think tanks to their side by the appeasement theory.
Bangladesh, India, China, Laos Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore are close neighbors. Problems in Burma invariably affect them. Like ASEAN, it is in their own self-interest to help Burma to find a solution to its internal problems. Besides, Burma is also a member of the United Nations. When Burma affects the relationships of various regional groupings like ASEAN and the European Union or the Americas, the UN has a duty to try to help resolve the problem. This cannot be construed as “an intervention” but as the duty of the UNSC to solve the international problems. But if political intervention does not work than military intervention became a possibility. However, there is still time to make the political intervention if the neighboring countries of China and India choose to do.
Everybody knows that the reverse of ‘Intervention’ is ‘Non-intervention’, opportunistic exploitation, or benign neglect. These policies can be useful if the problem in Burma is short-term in nature or if the conflict partners can themselves find a solution. This is not the case in Burma. The conflict between the central government and the ethnic nationalities is entering its 6th decades. The conflict with the democracy advocates is now almost two decades old and Burma’s economy is in a downward spiral and her problems are multiplying. Burma as a nation is now in a very weak state. Given more time, it could collapse on its own. Or external powers might be tempted to intervene. Either way, the results may not be beneficial to Burma’s neighbors, ASEAN or the Asia region as a whole. Hence it is high time that the UN should intervene, spearheaded by the UNSC.
The political landscape in Southeast Asia changed drastically when the Americans withdrew from the Philippines. This was accelerated rapidly as the People’s Republic of China became a great regional power. China’s economic and military capabilities have grown dramatically at a time when China’s traditional security concern, Russia, has faded. Japan remains a long-term but not an immediate security problem for China. This has left China free, in geopolitical terms, to shift its attention to the South. The most striking manifestation of this development has been a very assertive policy toward the South China Sea; i.e., the entire sea and all the land outcroppings within it are claimed as Chinese sovereign territory. This has been accompanied by a number of statements from senior Chinese civilian and military officials that seem to presage a kind of Chinese Monroe Doctrine for Southeast Asia, a modern reprise of the historic preponderance of the Middle Kingdom. Compounded by China’s resort to bare knuckled military intimidation aimed at Taiwan, have reinforced a growing perception in Southeast Asia of China as a major security factor-and perhaps a threat. The discovery of Chinese facilities on a reef near to, and claimed by, the Philippines did nothing to dispel these concerns.
Economically, China’s presence, particularly in northern Burma, has exploded. In a decade, cross border trade went from $15 million to over $800 million and now is estimated to be a billion dollars. A flood of cheap Chinese goods now dominates the Burmese consumer market. Large numbers of Chinese traders and undocumented immigrants have changed the demographic profile of northern Burma. Today, Mandalay is described by people of Burma as second Beijing, a predominantly Chinese city dominated by Chinese money. Chinese construction crews are building and upgrading highways, bridges, and railroads through northern Burma to the sea, while Chinese officials describe Burma as a potentially lucrative outlet to the Indian Ocean for Chinese trade. Bertil Lintner reports: “Most alarming, from the perspective of ASEAN, was the fact that some of the equipment for the Burmese navy had to be installed and at least partially maintained by Chinese technicians. The Chinese had gained a toehold in the maritime region between India and Southeast Asia for the first time in the entire history.”
From a geopolitical perspective, Burma’s Military approach to its huge northern neighbor is anomalous. The obvious point is that Burma has developed increasingly close ties with the only country in the world that is in a position to seriously threaten its vital security interests. One and a half decade of autocratic rule, mismanagement and self-imposed isolation have turned Burma into one of the world’s poorest countries. This, in turn, has made Burma vulnerable in terms of security. An economic relapse has the pernicious effect of reinforcing the Junta’s siege mentality, exacerbating its tendency toward police state methods. Such an economically hard-pressed regime has increases its collaboration in the narcotics trade with the narco barons and began to turn to China. The end result is more cross border migration and increasing control of the economy by well-capitalized Chinese traders, both home grown and from China. More far-fetched, but not impossible, is an absorption of some of Burma’s parts as happened in Tibet, for many ethnic nationality groups through their historical experience with the Chinese have found the Chinese option to be far better than the Burman. The de facto territorial integrity of a poor, weak, and divided nation cannot be taken for granted.
Burma was the first non-communist country to recognize the People Republic of China in 1949. She signed the Sino-Burmese border treaty in 1960 – the first border treaty signed after the Chinese civil war. The Burmese regime, ignoring the results of the 1990 election and being isolated from many sources of international credit, turned to her northern Burma, and China was the one nation willing to give economic, military, and advisory aid. In 1990 and 1994, the two countries signed arms sales agreements. Chinese investment in the country is grossly underestimated because the amount does not go through the National Investment Board. Chinese trade seems greatly under estimated and Chinese immigration into Burma has been extensive (estimates range from two to three million Chinese now in the country, compared to several hundred thousand before 1988). Beijing’s concept of “democratization” does not embrace an open acceptance of the vanguard of Burma’s democracy movement, the National League for Democracy. The Chinese Embassy in Rangoon, for instance, keeps a demonstrable distance from the NLD. Nor is there any open Chinese sympathy for the plight of its leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, held under house arrest at her home for most of the time. Yet Daw Suu ’s name often appears regularly in Chinese media reports on Burmese developments.
It can’t have escaped Beijing’s notice that Suu Kyi has never openly criticized China or its ties with Rangoon. Chinese foreign policy pundits must also be aware that Suu Kyi has also never expressed clearly pro-Western sentiments. Her aides describe her as a nationalist and maintain she would never, for instance, allow an American military presence in Burma—another source of comfort for Beijing. China’s vice prime minister, “iron lady” Wu Yi, told Junta chairman Than Shwe, that Beijing wanted to see Burma consolidate economic development—and at the same time achieve political stability and national harmony. For Burmese observers, this goes a long way towards explaining the success of Chinese economic policies and the miserable state of affairs in Burma.
The Chinese oil pipeline would connect Kunming, capital of China’s Southwestern Yunnan Province, and Akyab on the Burmese coast, cutting 1,200 km from the present sea route between the Persian Gulf and China’s Guangdong Province, via the Straits of Malacca. More than 60 percent of China’s oil travels this route. Hence the putting of the Burmese case at the UNSC, especially if additional American pressure can lead to a Chinese abstention in any UN Security Council vote on Burma, will definitely permit a new scenario to emerge in the Burmese political stalemate.
The regional economic integration that China needs to help boost its Southwestern provinces would be considerably enhanced if the Burmese economy were vigorous rather than the basket-case it is currently. Burma could buy more Chinese exports and provide fast transport networks to link the west of China with South Asian markets. Foreign investment in Yunnan and the rest of the region would also rise. Such a scenario would be of huge benefit to all three nations (increased trade with India would also help assuage Sino-Indian security tensions). Burma, with its dilapidated rail and road systems, and inability to access international funding to upgrade them, constitutes a black hole in the fabric of the various Asian Development Bank-funded development programs in the region comprising Yunnan, Southeast Asia and South Asia. These include the Greater Mekong Subregion and various other regional triangles and quadrangles and wider projects such as the Trans-Asian Railway and the Asian Highway, designed to speed up the transport of goods within Asia and between Asia and Europe. There are a number of Track-2 projects to promote these networks that Burma takes part in, including the Kunming Initiative made up of Bangladesh, China, India and Burma and the Ganges-Mekong project. So far these have not progressed beyond the talking stage. In the meantime, Burma has been exporting its troubles to its neighbors to the effect that the situation has to be taken up by the UNSC. To change Burma requires a political process that is well beyond the capacity of Burma’s military regime, as was witnessed from the proceedings at the generals’ re-launching “National Convention” which they hoped would complete the “basic elements” for a new constitution, but which will fail to win national or international credibility.
An Appeal to Burmese Thinking
The Burmese tend too think of China as an obstacle to its objective of achieving democracy in Burma, and feel that China is supporting the military regime due to many factors. They think that the Chinese want to justify the suppression of democracy activists in Tien-An-Men square, the sale of 1.4 billion worth of arms, the non-tolerance of Burmese democratic activities on the Chinese border; the collapse of the Burmese Communist Party and the subsequent cease-fire agreements. But the most unkindest cut is the pressuring of the KIA ceasefire with the Junta coupled with the economic development aid given to the Junta especially at a time when the Burmese democrats were seeking international sanctions against the military and the non-reception of lobby delegations of the NCGUB. No Burmese could comprehend of how China’s policy of peaceful cooperation through trade or the five principles of peaceful coexistence is being applied here.
The Burmese ethno-democratic hypotheses have worked well in the liberal democracies of the Western world but these have not worked well with the neighboring countries and China. The neighboring countries are themselves experiencing many difficulties in their developmental paths, and with the concept in China’s external relations of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. The non-interference in the internal affairs of a nation has been a key principle that has been applied even in the UN. Cynics will reject this last statement and give examples where China and other powers have interfered in the internal affairs of various nations. While this is true for covert operations, it is not realistic to expect governments to change their basic policies just for the sake of Burma. This is especially so since, in their perception, there is no alternative governing body to the Burmese army (Balkanization theory).
The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence were worked out by China, Burma and India in the early 1950’s and became the basis for the Non-Aligned Movement. The basic aim was to counter colonialism and imperialism, and enable weaker nations to exist and collectively work out their own futures. Some of these principles are still sound and should not be discarded.
I would humbly like to remind my Burmese democrats not to approach China with the attitude that China’s non-intervention policy towards Burma is wrong, when she has intervene economically on the side of the military regime. China also must not be approached as an obstacle to achieving democracy in Burma. Neither of these two assumptions is correct. Instead China’s non-intervention policy should be encouraged and maintained. We must understand that China does not necessarily oppose democracy or support military rule. China itself is moving towards democratization and is opening up its economy to the world. The Burmese military leaders do not have the same policy and are obstructing economic development – especially access from Southwestern China to the Indian Ocean. China has voiced its support for democratization and national reconciliation in Burma. This should be nurtured; China is the main power in the region. Burmese democrats need to accept this reality and work out how their aspirations can benefit both the peoples of Burma and China. Burma cannot expect to survive in the long-term and grow if its policies contradict or run counter to regional trends. The whole region needs to develop in tandem.
We should also remember that China has indigenous Kachins, Lisu, Shans, Was, Palaung, Lahus living on its borders. Burmese policies that adversely affect these peoples in Burma have an effect on the population of China. These factors cannot be ignored if Burma wants good relations. Burmese democrats must develop policies that are ‘friendly’ towards Burma’s neighbours.
The Benign Dragon
China is desirous to project itself as a benign dragon with lots of followers and admirers. Professor Johnson indicated that China is more open than many in the West recognize and that the responsibility for China’s political future is in the hand of policymakers. Since the imperial period China has been extremely subject to its external environment and America’s behavior toward China will make a great impact on the direction. With the mainland’s ongoing modernization and its desire to project power abroad, many countries in Asia believe that China is becoming the dominant power in the region. While intra-regional trade continues to expand and integrate China with its neighbors, free trade zones in East Asia have been discussed, explicitly with non-U.S. involvement. Therefore, as dynamics in the region begin to change, Roy stated there is a strong desire not to polarize Asia again due U.S.-China conflicts. Thus maintaining stable relations is an important strategic component and is in the best interest for U.S national security. Though the U.S. is working with a flawed framework and there is bound to be further Sino-American crises, Roy asserted that sound reasoning and understanding how the Chinese system works will help to prevent misperceptions and miscalculations that could lead to confrontation.
The Asia Pacific Community Vision also has a much more benign prediction how China will affect the region. China’s decision during the Asian crisis not to devalue its currency demonstrated its commitment to the return of economic stability and growth to the region. Figures already show that the region is well on its way to a full recovery, and before long will be leading the world in economic growth. In this context, regional institutions will be strengthened and made more effective; institutional innovations are already being mooted with this purpose in mind. China’s growing interest in and commitment to regional institutions will continue. Interdependence with Afro-Asian countries will increasingly define China’s relationship with the Asia Pacific region. These forces will also begin to transform China and the Asia Pacific. Economic openness will be followed by political liberalization and the “demand for new institutions, social welfare structures, and a more predictable legal framework.” Generational change in leaderships will bring new political values into the government of China and that of the others. As interdependence breeds a sense of regional community, structures of sovereignty and rivalry will begin to be mitigated. This may eventually contribute to the resolution of the region’s most serious ongoing tensions, between China and Taiwan, on the Korean peninsula, and in the South China Sea.
There is little doubt that China’s regional strategy will be driven by its overriding rivalry with the US, leading it to seek accommodation with former great power rivals: Russia, India, possibly Japan. Asia Pacific states will have more options if their relations with the US become strained. On the other hand, the new imperative for the smaller states of the region will be to avoid being trampled in the course of great power competition. They will need to manage their relations with the great powers in such a way as to avoid being “chain ganged” by a larger ally into a conflict not of their making. They will also have an interest in maintaining stability and peace between the great powers in order to escape the devastating effect of what may possibly be a nuclear conflict. Regional tension spots such as Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula, will become possible conflict detonators, and are likely to attract great attention within the region.
In international politics, how a country rises often has more drastic consequences for the world than the rise itself. The speed, velocity, ideology, and most significantly, the impact it has on the international balance of power, cause other countries to harbor suspicion, caution, jealousy, and fear, and trigger antipathy among other reactions. The way Germany in the late 19th century and Japan at the beginning of the 20th century made remarkable advances sparked considerable reactions from established powers. “The rise of China” could also trigger all of the above. Many things in China are regarded as potential forces that could change the status q