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Archive for July 12th, 2008

The 2010 Election Challenges

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The 2010 Election Challenges

By MIN ZIN Saturday, July 12, 2008

Burma’s conflict is moving into a new phase of intractability. In other words, the conflict will become institutionalized in 2010.

The military has unilaterally set the rules of the new game with the ratification of its constitution and is preparing to hold elections in 2010 as part of its seven-step “roadmap.” But the new constitution will not bring about much-needed state-building, a process in which all parties rally together and make their voices heard.

Instead of entering into the state-building process, Burma ranked 12th out of 177 states in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict and societal deterioration in the 2008 “failed state” index, presented by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace. In the 2007 index Burma was designated 14th in failed state rankings. The country is crumbling.

“I can’t really see anything happening that will be positive for the country’s better future at this stage,” said David Steinberg, a Burma expert from Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

The incompatible goals of the military elites and the opposition, including ethnic minorities, will not be transformed by the new constitution and the 2010 election.

The opposition will continue to fight for the goal of national reconciliation but is likely to find itself ineffective within the new institutional procedures that favor the military’s exclusive domination. As result, the opposition will have to pursue alternative course of actions—such as public mobilization and international advocacy.

On the other hand, since the military continues to impose its one-sided goal of exclusive domination with the new constitution and elections it cannot expect to minimize the cost of conflict. The most visible costs of this approach will be the continuation of international isolation and further damage to the country’s economy.

“We do not accept the junta’s unilateral solution,” said Aung Din, a former political prisoner and executive director of the US Campaign for Burma. “Until and unless there is a negotiated political settlement, made by the military, the National League for Democracy led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and ethnic representatives together, the US-led western sanctions against the junta will not be lifted.”

Sein Htay, a Burmese economist in exile, goes further, saying: “No matter whether there are western economic sanctions or not, the regime’s policy failure and mismanagement will damage the prospect of development and public welfare. The country’s economy will continue to worsen after 2010.”

The threat of renewed public uprisings will still be present, since the military’s intentions do not facilitate a reconciliation of interests. More repression will result, increasing existing grievances and public hostility towards the military.

“As the generals will use the same method of coercion against the people even after 2010, the existing public anger that reached an unprecedented high level during the crackdown against monk-led protests last year and the regime’s negligence of cyclone relief in May will then be compounded,” said Win Min, a researcher in civil-military relations in Burma. “Antagonistic civil-military relations will continue.”

Apart from being unable to transform incompatible goals and relations, the new, post-2010 regime will not change any salience of the issues that the country has been facing and which have earned it pariah status.

According to the military’s new constitution, a military chief will independently administer military affairs, including recruitment and expansion of troops, promotions, troop deployment, budget, military-owned businesses, purchase and manufacture of weapons, etc.

Consequently, the issues of child soldiers, forced relocations, forced labor, landmines, internal displaced person, the flow of refugees to neighboring countries, rape and other rights violations—all of which are associated with the military’s unchecked interests and behavior— will continue unresolved, especially in ethnic areas such as the eastern areas of Burma.

Since the elected parliament’s legislative power will be restricted and because it will not be able to oversee the military, no civilian mechanisms will be available to redress the military’s excesses. Military personnel accused of crimes will be tried by a court-martial appointed by the head of the armed forces, the Tatmadaw—effectively allowing the military to continue its violations with impunity.

The 2010 elections could, however, contribute to leadership changes, at least on a nominal level during the initial stage. Two power centers will be created—military and government. Aside from the 25 percent of parliamentary seats reserved for the military and its power to appoint the three most important cabinet ministers (Defense, Home and Border Area Affairs) in the Cabinet, the generals are determined to fill the remaining government portfolios and parliamentary seats with members of its own civilian thuggish movement, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).

The election is sure to be marked by vote rigging, intimidation and bullying attacks orchestrated by the USDA and its affiliates against opposing candidates. Given the record of USDA violence against Suu Kyi’s entourage in 2003 and opposition activists in subsequent years, the world will witness an election model of goon-squad democracy—comparable to the travesty of recent elections in Zimbabwe.

The new post-election power arrangement will nonetheless create conflict between two power centers over the command structure and personal interests. Even now, various reports confirm that there is serious animosity and tension between military personnel and USDA members regarding the latter’s interference with the military’s administrative mandate and other issues of self-interest.

Given the military’s lack of experience of sharing power, it will be harder for the generals to accept being outshone by the USDA.

“Many officers in the military hate the USDA and believe it will go down when Than Shwe goes,” said a source close to the military establishment.

The government’s operation with two centers of power—no matter who pull the strings—could lead to either a serious internal split or miserable inefficiency of the ruling body.

Some advocates expect it will take an evolutionary shift toward liberalization. They believe the military’s constitution, although flawed, can give reform options to a new generation of military officers. They suggest “using the generals’ flawed model of democracy as a starting point from which to pursue a more acceptable long-term solution.”

However, the nature of the power rivalry within a post-2010 regime will not necessarily lead to a new opening and democratization in the long run. Even if it does so, the question is: how long is the long run? It may be too long to have any strategic relevancy for the opposition movement, within the country as well as abroad.

In fact, political transition is not likely to take place within the framework of a military-imposed constitution. Even amendments made to the constitution in the hope of gradual reform will not be possible within military-dominated parliamentary debate and a new power arrangement. It could happen only if the status-quo is challenged by public pressure and a negotiated settlement is reached with the military. Otherwise, the post-2010 prospect remains bleak.

The UN-led international community, therefore, must double its efforts to push for an inclusive political resolution in Burma before 2010, mediating for meaningful political dialogue among all key stake holders by using coercive diplomacy, rather than pleading to the regime to conduct elections that are just “credible and inclusive”.

The international community must be fully aware that the result of the election will be in accordance with the military’s constitution. Otherwise, it will make the same major mistake committed by EU leaders at their July 19 summit in Brussels when they called on the military junta “to ensure that the elections announced for 2010 will be prepared and conducted in a way that contributes to a credible and fully participative transition to democracy.” Without considering contextual and consequential dangers, the EU leaders just pushed for the 2010 election and perhaps felt they were serving the cause of Burmese democracy. Moral misery and strategic blunder!

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who is planning to return to Burma soon, should be especially cautioned not to lend legitimacy to the regime’s constitution and elections in 2010. The UN, which once supported the junta’s seven-step “roadmap” as a potential for an inclusive transition, must now say clearly that the map is no longer relevant since it has failed to incorporate key stakeholders.

In brief, the UN-led international community should not give up its attempt to enforce an inclusive political resolution in Burma before 2010.

Copyright © 2008 Irrawaddy Publishing Group |

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

July 12, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Varieties in English

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Crime against humanity?

Bangkok Post, 12 July 2008


Biofuels are harming developing countries, writes Eva Clayton

Riots and protests over high food prices around the world formed the backdrop for statesmen meeting at the G8 summit this week. The goal of the meeting was to issue a statement on food security and chart a way forward toward reducing global food prices. But any announcement must be backed up by significant shifts in government policy that have made the current food crisis significantly worse.

Shifting weather conditions and natural disasters always threaten to disrupt food supplies. The last year has been no different as several of the world’s largest and most important food producing regions have been badly hit by Mother Nature.

In the United States, for example, severe flooding in agricultural regions has shocked markets for corn and other staples. Droughts in Australia, one of South Asia’s most important food producing countries, have badly diminished food markets. And the devastating cyclone in Burma rattled world rice markets. The results have been staggering. International corn and soy prices have jumped to record levels – above $7 a bushel for corn and a nearly equally astonishing $15 a bushel for soy.

Having just completed a three year assignment with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, I am intensely aware of the impact unpredictable weather events and natural disasters can have on the health and nutrition of poor families in developing countries.

What can be done? For starters, wealthy countries need to provide short term assistance through emergency food relief to families. This will help them to survive the current crisis and replenish food supply abroad. The goal is to keep starvation at bay.

In the near term, we need to build national food economies through fair and open trade so that there will be more food available and accessible to feed a growing world population. We need to promote and support sustainable agricultural practices and assist small farmers in developing countries.

Moreover, we need we need to harness modern technologies to boost crop yields and generate more food per acre. The green revolution launched by Norman Borlaug that helped Asia generate enough food to feed itself needs to be repeated once again. This will help countries with dynamic economies feed their rapidly rising populations and meet the needs of citizens who demand increased numbers of calories.

But perhaps most importantly we need to stop making natural disasters worse through misguided government policies. In particular, we must reassess our programmes that convert our food into fuels. The race by wealthy nations across the planet to embrace biofuels has made a bad situation far worse.

Keith Collins is a retired chief agriculture economist for the United States government. He recently noted that American mandates for biofuel production, mostly made from corn, were “the foot on the accelerator” of rising global corn prices.

A World Bank report says that biofuels have helped trigger a 75% increase in the cost of food around the world. “Without the increase in biofuels,” the report says, “global wheat and maize stocks would not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors would have been moderate.”

Simply put, when food is being diverted to feed automobiles instead of mouths; as a result, millions of people living in poverty are placed in grave jeopardy.

The situation has become so bad for poor countries struggling to cope with higher food prices that UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food Jean Ziegler has called biofuels a “crime against humanity”.

As if this were not troubling enough, increased production of biofuels comes with enormous environmental cost. Churning up land in conservation to create more fuel depletes soil resources and can release more carbon into the atmosphere than the gasoline it displaces.

According to Simon Johnson, an economist with the International Monetary Fund, “Making ethanol from corn doesn’t generate much net energy-you use almost as much oil producing and transporting the ethanol as you’d use to generate the equivalent amount of gasoline.”

The increased reliance on biofuels also removes buffers from streams and rivers, as well as triggering an increased use of fertilisers that adds to pollution.

Wealthy nations need to reassess their mandates for biofuels production. There’s not much governments can do to change the weather. But they can change policies that double the social, economic and political damages that result from natural disasters.

Eva M. Clayton is a former assistant director-general, UN Food Agriculture Organisation.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

July 12, 2008 at 3:21 am

World focus on Burma (12 July 2008)

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McCain and Zimbabwe

New York Sun, United States –

Moscow and Beijing use the same argument to block action aimed at helping people in places like Burma. This strategy assures that words like Tibet, Taiwan, …

A Tool Of Revolution

Newsweek –

The failure of their “click-here activism,” says a Cairo human-rights expert who spoke anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue, has shown “the …

MISSION WATCH: Burma’s Military Allows Christians To Install Water …

BosNewsLife, Hungary –

… some 12 installations, including in Maubin, a township of the heavily-populated Irrawaddy Delta region in southwest Burma, also known as Myanmar. …

Zimbabwe sanctions: A schism between the United States and Europe …, United Kingdom –

Last year, Russia vetoed a US sponsored resolution that criticized Burma’s human rights record. In 2004, Russia agreed to a Security Council resolution …

The downside of good intentions

Guelph Mercury, Canada –

Two months ago, the world looked on in shock and disbelief as, after Cyclone Nargis had smashed ashore in Burma (Myanmar), that country’s ruling generals …

Zimbabwe sanctions: A schism between the United States and Europe …, United Kingdom –

Last year, Russia vetoed a US sponsored resolution that criticized Burma’s human rights record. In 2004, Russia agreed to a Security Council resolution …

West suffers historic defeat as China and
Times Online, UK –
The showdown heralds a chilling of international relations as Russia and China resist growing UN intervention in other repressive regimes, such a

‘Dodgy Dossier’ on Zimbabwe crushed

Zimbabwe Guardian, UK –

In January 2007 China and Russia jointly vetoed a US-sponsored resolution criticizing Burma’s human rights record. How then could they support a vote on …

Vetoes defeat sanctions on Mugabe

Boston Globe, United States –

Once the Russians made it clear that they would exercise their veto, the Chinese, often leery of taking a lone stand on sensitive human rights issues, …

‘A great honor’

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, IN –

Unlike in Christianity, where monks profess vows for life, temporary monkhood is common in Theravada Buddhism in Burma, also known as Myanmar. …

The 2010 Election Challenges

The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –

By MIN ZIN Burma’s conflict is moving into a new phase of intractability. In other words, the conflict will become institutionalized in 2010. …

Stately home to hold car boot sale

Scarborough Today, UK –

… go directly to the British Red Cross Disaster Fund, which is currently providing aid to victims of the earthquake in China and Cyclone Nargis in Burma. …

‘A great honor’

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, IN –

Unlike in Christianity, where monks profess vows for life, temporary monkhood is common in Theravada Buddhism in Burma, also known as Myanmar. …

Drugs, Religion and the Secret Empires

Strategy Page –

For decades after World War II, most of the heroin came from the remote Burma (now Myanmar)-China border area. But both of those nations eventually cracked …

Weekly Business Roundup (July 12, 2008)

The Irrawaddy News Magazine, Thailand –

He did not propose how the Asean countries should pool their resources for mutual benefit. Thailand and Burma have natural gas resources while Indonesia, …

Arsenic risk high in Burma: study

The Age, Australia –

Eastern Sumatra, the Irrawaddy delta in Burma and Cambodia’s Tonle Sap lake are among areas in Southeast Asia facing a high risk of arsenic contamination in …

Faith and hope: ‘All they had’, PA –

… both 24, met William at the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand, about 3 miles from Myanmar, the southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma. …

An American Pastime: Smoking Pot


About 20% of residents surveyed in the Netherlands, by contrast, reported having tried pot; in Asian countries, such as Japan and China, marijuana use was …

Kubota sees Thailand playing key Asean role

Bangkok Post, Thailand –

Kubota is now expanding to overseas markets by exporting diesel engines, walk-behind tractors and other machinery to new markets including Burma, Laos, ..

Decline and fallacy, UK –

Why should Burma be “tiny”, for example? He also has a habit of announcing that something is not well-known when, like Admiral Zheng He’s 15th-century …

‘The Snake Charmer’

By JAMIE JAMES, New York Times, United States –
Burma, which many people now call Myanmar, the Southeast Asian country west of Thailand, is one of the most poorly studied places in the world. …

Has The Post-American Era Already Started?

INDOlink, CA –

The Western powers also failed to change the regimes in Burma and Sudan. They made a big issue of human rights violations in Burma and Darfur, …

Tri” for Thai Daughters

Boothbay Register, ME USA –

Both groups work tirelessly to prevent child trafficking in the Golden Triangle that is comprised of the countries of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma). …

Christian Ministry Brings Life to Burma

Christian Post –

By Joshua Goldberg Two months after cyclone Nargis claimed over 90000 lives and wrecked untold destruction across the Southeast Asian nation of Burma, …

Photo: Sun News Publishing

Daily Sun, Nigeria –

He said: “If that were the case, why am I, a Nigerian being sent to Burma, Myanmar to help them solve the problem of democratization, of human right, …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

July 12, 2008 at 3:14 am

Russia, China veto UN sanctions on Zimbabwe regime

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Russia, China veto UN sanctions on Zimbabwe regime

AFP Photo: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses his supporters at Harare airport on July 4, 2008, after…

By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer

UNITED NATIONS – Russia and China vetoed U.S.-proposed sanctions on Zimbabwe’s leaders Friday, the global community’s latest attempt to take action against an authoritarian regime widely criticized for a violent and one-sided presidential election.

Western powers mustered nine votes, the minimum needed to gain approval in the 15-nation council. But the resolution pushed by the Bush administration failed because of the action by two of the five veto-wielding permanent members.

The other three nations with veto power — the U.S., Britain and France — argued that sanctions were needed to respond to the government-backed violence and intimidation against opponents of President Robert Mugabe during Zimbabwe‘s first round presidential vote in March and runoff in late June.

Mugabe’s government has denied responsibility for the bloodshed surrounding the vote, which he won in the runoff after his sole rival — opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai — dropped out because of attacks on his followers. Tsvangirai’s party reported Friday that at least 113 of its members were killed in political violence since March.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad harshly criticized the vetoes, saying “China and Russia have stood with Mugabe against the people of Zimbabwe.”

The action put an end for now to efforts to apply more international pressure on Mugabe’s regime and force it to share power with Tsvangirai.

It follows a recent summit where African Union leaders adopted a resolution calling for dialogue in Zimbabwe, but did not directly criticize Mugabe or the runoff vote. The AU leaders said they were “deeply concerned” about the situation but their only promised action was be to support “the will” for a unity government.

The proposal would have imposed an arms embargo on the southern African nation and an international travel ban and a freeze on the personal assets of Mugabe and 13 other officials. It also called for a U.N. special envoy for Zimbabwe to be appointed.

But Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said sanctions would have taken the U.N. beyond its mandate in trying to punish political disputes by “artificially elevating them to the level of a threat” to international peace and security.

Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, whose nation is one of Zimbabwe’s major trading partners, expressed similar sentiments, saying Zimbabwe should be allowed to resolve the political crisis on its own.

“The development of the situation in Zimbabwe until now has not exceeded the context of domestic affairs,” Wang said, adding that sanctions would “interfere with the negotiation process.”

Mugabe and Tsvangirai both say they are willing to share power, if only during a transition to new elections, but differ on who should lead the government. The long-ruling ZANU-PF party wants Mugabe at the head, something the opposition and Mugabe’s critics in the West have rejected.

Mugabe, in power since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980, has been accused of holding onto power through fraud and intimidation and trampling on people’s rights. Western powers and rights groups also accuse him of overseeing an economic slide blamed on the collapse of the key agriculture sector, after often violence seizures of farmland from whites. Mugabe has claimed his actions are aimed at benefitting poor blacks.

In addition to dodging sanctions, Mugabe “will be coming” to the U.N. General Assembly in September, said Zimbabwean U.N. Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku.

Supporters of the resolution had expected Russia and China to abstain because of the depth of the crisis in Zimbabwe.

“They read the situation wrong,” Chidyausiku said. “It’s the arrogance of the Americans. They think they can rule the world. They can’t.”

Khalilzad said the vote called into question Russia’s reliability as a Group of Eight partner because he said it had indicated earlier that it would abstain.

“The U-turn in the Russian position is particularly surprising and disturbing. Only a few days ago the Russian Federation was supportive of a G8 statement which said, and I quote, ‘We express grave concern about the situation in Zimbabwe,” he said.

In London, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the vetoed measure “will appear incomprehensible to the people of Zimbabwe.”

South Africa, a Zimbabwe neighbor that holds one of the council’s non-permanent seats, led the opposition to the sanctions, arguing that Zimbabwe is not a threat to international peace.

Voting for the resolution were Belgium, Britain, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, France, Italy, Panama and the United States. Voting against were China, Libya, Russia, South Africa and Vietnam. Indonesia abstained.

Washington is considering tougher unilateral sanctions by expanding the list of about 130 officials now banned from visiting the U.S. and hit with financial penalties.

The European Union and Australia have imposed their own limited sanctions on Zimbabwe’s government, and the EU likewise is studying whether to add to travel bans and an asset freeze already in place on Mugabe, his Cabinet ministers and top ruling party officials.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects spelling of Mugabe in graf 5, minor editing throughout)

BBC News

Russia, China veto UN sanctions on Zimbabwe

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – China and Russia vetoed targeted UN sanctions on Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe over his disputed re-election, prompting an angry reaction from the United States which cast doubt on Moscow’s reliability as a G8 partner.

Zimbabwe: Russia, China Veto UN Sanctions on Mugabe

Russia, China veto UN sanctions on Zimbabwe regime The Associated Press

Financial Times

BBC News

Times Online


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Written by Lwin Aung Soe

July 12, 2008 at 3:08 am

Posted in Burma's Geopolitics

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