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Posts Tagged ‘Maung Aye

World focus on Burma (4 October 2008)

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Myanmar leader Maung Aye to visit Bangladesh soon

People’s Daily Online – Vice-Chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) Maung Aye will pay an official visit to Bangladesh in the near future, said an official announcement issued from Nay Pyi Taw Saturday without giving the date of his visit.

New law cracks down on child soldiers
Religious Intelligence Ltd, UK –
The use of children as combatants is one of the most despicable human rights violations in the world today and affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of …

Burma plans offshore oil exploration with Vietnam
Radio Australia, Australia –
The state media reports the companies would be allowed to explore supplies in the Gulf of Martaban, south of Burma in the Andaman Sea. Myanmar Oil and Gas …

In Myanmar crisis, an old dissident sees hope
Los Angeles Times, CA –

Sein Win believes that the people of Myanmar, also known as Burma, have the courage required to bring down the generals. A year ago, the generals crushed …

Don’t Forget About Burma’s Democrats
Wall Street Journal –
By U PYINAR ZAWTA I am a Burmese Buddhist monk, and I am in exile. One year ago in September, the Burmese regime brutally crushed peaceful protests in my …

Anil and Sanjoo Verma
San Francisco Chronicle,  USA –
As a political organizer for the National League for Democracy and the National Coalition Government Union of Burma, he was always busy – and sometimes …

United States: Bush Signs Law on Child Soldiers
Media For Freedom, Nepal –
The use of children as combatants is one of the most despicable human rights violations in the world today and affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of …

POLITICS: South Korea’s Persistent Dream of Regionalism
Inter Press Service, Italy –
But we had side discussions on Burma, on bringing together the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. The forum allows for other sorts …

New UN human rights chief calls for release of Myanmar political …
[JURIST] The newly appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] on Thursday urged the military-led government of Myanmar to release ..

Detained Shan leader hospitalised
Democratic Voice of Burma, Norway –
… Myo Win Tun has been in hospital for more than a month due to deteriorating health conditions, according to the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. …

Iran’s Abuse Of Religious Liberty
Voice of America –
The designation means that Iran — along with countries like Burma, North Korea, Sudan, China, and Saudi Arabia — is considered one of the worst violators …

Ohio immigrants become citizens in time to vote
Akron Beacon Journal, OH –
In junta-ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, political talk by dissenters can be dangerous and that concern accompanies immigrants to the US, Mrosko said. …

The World in Review
Repression in Burma has increased and the military government has failed to deliver on promises it made a year ago, despite international efforts at …

Coconut message saved JFK’s crew
Providence Journal, RI –

In fact, in the country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), which was recently devastated by a cyclone, many people drank coconut water after the storm …

Others were Aung San Suu Kyi, who is still under house arrest in Burma, and Iranian jurist Shirin Ebadi. The laureates mentor youth projects including a …

World focus on Burma (28 June 2008)

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Roadblocks to charity

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, IN –

By Rosa Salter Rodriguez More than a month ago, Cylcone Nargis devastated portions of Myanmar, formerly Burma, and a catastrophic earthquake struck Sichuan, …

Refugee crisis in Utah?

Salt Lake Tribune, United States –

As many as 400 are expected by the end of September from Iraq, Myanmar (Burma) and Bhutan, a crush of new arrivals who will flood a resettlement system some …

Bangladesh Looks Forward to General Maung Aye’s Visit

Narinjara News, Bangladesh –

The head of the caretaker government said this when outgoing Burma ambassador, U Nyan Lynn, made a farewell call on him at his office yesterday. …

Obituaries in the news

The Associated Press –

He served in Myanmar, then called Burma, during World War II. He became chief of the Indian army in 1969 and went on to lead troops to victory in a 1971 war …

8 years down the drain

Austin American-Statesman, TX –

… for which we are encouraging people to send out their panties to Burma’s foreign missions is because the generals ruling Myanmar are superstitious, …

Burma (Myanmar) cyclone interim report: Aftermath less dire than …

Christian Science Monitor, MA –

… Burma (Myanmar), an international assessment suggests that its impact, while immensely destructive, hasn’t led to a feared second wave of fatalities. …

Dhaka seeks Myanmar farm land on lease

The New Nation, Bangladesh –

Bangladesh urged Myanmar on Thursday to lease its farm land near the border for rice cultivation to meet its growing food demand, agencies reported. …


DailyNewsOnline, United Republic of Tanzania –

In the good old days, this country used to be known as Burma, pronounced ‘Bama’, as in Obama minus the ‘O’. Today it is known as Myanmar, …

Mobile Clinics Bring Life-saving Care to Myanmar Women

UNFPA (press release), NY –

YANGON, Myanmar— Survivors of the Myanmar disaster have proven remarkably resilient, but there is still a critical need for aid. And in the affected areas, …

MYANMAR: Cyclone farmers await assistance, NY –

An estimated 120000 water buffaloes and draught animals, vital to plough the agricultural heartland of Myanmar, were lost in the storm. …

Area Youth Raise Funds for Victims of Natural Disasters in Asia

TheDay, CT –

For Myanmar, formerly Burma, where the government has resisted aid assistance from other nations and international organizations, it gets more complicated. …

Strong, shared global vision of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The Australian, Australia –

He is aware, of course, of the need for continued political reform in Burma. “There is the democratisation of Myanmar (Burma) process. …

Japan: G8 Ministers Meet 27 June, Set to Focus on North Korea …

RedOrbit, TX –

They also expressed concern over Myanmar’s [Burma] political process but agreed the G-8 should provide incentives should the ruling junta take any …

The International Conference on Establishing the Ministry of …

ISRIA (subscription), DC –

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan would like to pay tribute to the role of the two distinguished Afghans, Allama Mahmood Tarzi …

EU: Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel attends G8 Foreign …

ISRIA (subscription), DC –

Today’s discussion focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Burma/Myanmar; tomorrow the Ministers will discuss Korea, Iran, the Middle East Peace Process, …

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

June 28, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Junta clamps down on tourist visa journalists

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Junta clamps down on tourist visa journalists

Burma’s military junta is apparently preparing to seal the country off as popular anger against the regime and the constitutional referendum it plans to hold on May 10 grows visibly in Rangoon and other cities, writes Edward Loxton for The First Post.

Foreign journalists who covered the September demonstrations and their aftermath – this correspondent included – have crossed, and continue to cross, into Burma posing as tourists. But Burmese embassies are urgently trying to clamp down on the practice.

Several journalists have reported problems obtaining visas, as Burmese embassies scrutinise every application. Two Japanese citizens suspected of being journalists were denied entry at Rangoon airport today. (The Japanese video cameraman famously shot by a Burmese soldier at the height of the September demonstrations had entered on a tourist visa, the government claimed at the time.)

Even diplomats and UN personnel are being kept waiting for visas, while Ministry of Information officials comb carefully through their applications. “The regime is clearly getting very nervous as May 10 approaches and opposition to the referendum and the draft constitution increases,” said a European diplomat in Bangkok.

The junta has every reason to be nervous, according to Bangkok Post writer Larry Jagan, reporting on a wave of demonstrations across Burma at the weekend. In Rangoon, about 20 monks led demonstrators in a march on the city’s Shwedagon Pagoda, central focus of September’s demonstrations. Police herded them away from the site without incident.

Other demonstrations were reported in the major Andaman Sea port of Sittwe and some other towns. Jagan quoted a Burmese businessman as saying: “The country is a social volcano, ready to erupt. All it needs is a spark to ignite it.”

Jagan, a seasoned Burma commentator, reported major splits within the ruling junta. “Gen Than Shwe‘s immediate subordinate, Gen Maung Aye, is increasingly disaffected with his boss, feeling that he is allowing rampant corruption to bankrupt the country,” he wrote.

Last September, Maung Aye was widely reported to be unhappy with the brutal way the regime suppressed the demonstrators. At one point during the crisis, a division of crack troops awaited his order to rebel – but the order never came.


Written by Lwin Aung Soe

April 30, 2008 at 2:56 am

OPINION: Apt time to push for change in Myanmar

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OPINION: Apt time to push for change in Myanmar


Gen Maung Aye turned down a request for a game of billiards by Myanmar’s ruling regime’s Gen Than Shwe.

With many military officers having family members who are monks, the Myanmar military has become more divided following the brutal way demonstrating monks were treated during protests in September last year, writes AMY CHEW

IN the aftermath of Myanmar’s brutal crackdown on the country’s Buddhist monks’ peaceful demonstration last year, the ruling regime’s Gen Than Shwe called up his deputy for a regular game of billiards.

But to Than Shwe’s surprise, the country’s second-highest military officer, Gen Maung Aye, turned him down.

“Gen Maung Aye doesn’t play billiards any more with Gen Than Shwe,” Win Min, an activist with extensive contacts with the military, told the New Straits Times.

“I heard that he (Than Shwe) called up General Maung Aye and said, ‘Let’s go play billiards’, but Maung Aye refused.
“It’s like a protest to the top general,” Win Min said.

Myanmar’s military is divided and at its weakest since 1988, the last time large-scale protests erupted and ended in bloodshed, say Win Min and pro-democracy activists.

Its once fearsome military intelligence service is also diminished, following the 2004 sacking of military intelligence chief Khin Nyunt.

Khin Nyunt was viewed as a moderate who was open to working with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

For the democratic forces in Myanmar, now is the best time to regroup to push for change.

“This is a window of opportunity to exploit,” said Nyo Ohn Myint of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). “It’s the chance to regroup, reorganise another people’s power (revolt).”

The activists were in Jakarta recently to attend an international conference on Myanmar.

Throughout the 46-year rule of the military regime in one of the world’s poorest countries, dissent has always been crushed with brute force. But last September’s crackdown backfired.

When Than Shwe’s special troops beat and shot monks and raided monasteries in the capital Yangon, the brutality repulsed officers within the military itself.

U Awbata, 30, was one of the monks at the protests who managed to escape. He now lives in Sri Lanka.

“I saw three monks shot and one of them fell,” he said. “The soldiers kicked and stomped his head with their military boots and started beating him. I couldn’t do anything but cry.”

With many military officers having family members who are monks and holding them in respect, “the military has become more divided after September’s demonstrations”, said Win Min, who also lectures on Burmese affairs at Chiangmai University.

“There are many mid-level and even some high-level generals who disagree with the level of force used against the monks. The monks are revered symbols in Burma. They are at the top of our value system.”

Buddhist monks are an integral part of Burmese society, their presence as ubiquitous as the temples that dot the country’s landscape.

“Just as the monks depend on the people for their basic needs, the lay people depend on the monks for their spiritual needs,” said U Awbata.

“In the past, the people always acted on their own to demonstrate whenever they were faced with problems in their daily basic needs.

“So when the monks saw the people suffering, they took it upon themselves to act on behalf of the people because it’s our duty. We never thought the military would treat us this way.”

Maung Aye’s loyalists and other troops, unhappy with the crackdown in Yangon, responded by not shooting at the monks.

“If you look at what happened in Mandalay, the troops just surrounded the temples but they did not shoot or beat the monks. They also did not raid the monasteries, unlike in Yangon,” said Win Min.

“In Yangon, the special troops there are very close to Than Shwe.”

But even as Than Shwe might see over Maung Aye’s subtle insubordination, he has not sacked him. His deputy has many regional commanders behind him as well as the loyalty of the troops under his command.

September’s peaceful uprising took the military by surprise and exposed the weakness in its intelligence service after Khin Nyunt’s ouster.

“When the demonstrations erupted, (the junta) had no idea who the leaders were as all the informers they had planted in the monasteries were no longer working,” said Win Min.

Pro-democracy activists put the death toll of monks and other protesters at 100, with another 1,200 jailed, bringing the total number of political prisoners to 2,200.

Western sanctions have failed to prod the regime to make any changes, as investments from China, Russia, India and Asean countries help offset its economic isolation.

Pro-democracy activists have begun lobbying China to use its influence over Myanmar to bring about reform.

Nyo, an aide to Suu Kyi, recently met in Kunming with Chinese officials, who expressed a list of concerns over regime change and extending support to Suu Kyi.

As China shares a very long border with Myanmar, the Chinese are concerned Suu Kyi would allow Myanmar to fall under Western influence and allow the United States to spy on them.

“I told them that Suu Kyi is a very nationalistic person,” Nyo said.

China also worries it would lose its vast economic interests in Myanmar under a new regime.

Suu Kyi has agreed to give China special privileges for a period of time, perhaps around 10 years.

“She instructed me to work closely with China,” said Nyo. “China is very important and she is willing to assure China that no matter how Burma is transformed into a democracy, China’s interests are secure.”

China is also worried about Russia’s growing influence in Myanmar since 2000. Russia has large investments in nuclear power plants, coal mines and technical military hardware.

As the world’s major powers jostle to balance their influence in the region, time is running out for the impoverished Burmese.

“The people are in a very bad situation,” said Nyo. “Unemployment is running at around 70 per cent. People have very, very little opportunity to make money. The cost of living is very high.

“There is going to be another uprising, not because of Aung San Suu Kyi, but because the people have no tomorrow.

“We do not want to see more bloodshed, people sacrificing their lives. The alternative is for a political solution.”

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

March 25, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Splits emerge in Burma’s army over country’s roadmap

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Larry Jagan
Mizzima News
March 21, 2008

There is a growing rift within Burma’s military government over the country’s political future and road-map to democracy. A battle is now beginning to emerge between those who are currently in control of most of Burma’s assets and those who see themselves as the country’s true guardians. Several key members of the ruling junta are secretly being investigated for corruption.

Once in State Peace and Development Council (File Photo:Mizzima)

The junta is no longer cohesive and united, as two major camps have clearly emerged. On one side there are the ministers and members of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) who have major business interests and are associated with Than Shwe’s brainchild, the mass community-based Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).

On the other side are the top ranking generals, led by second in command Maung Aye, who want a professional army and see its main role as protector of the people. They have become increasingly dismayed at corruption within the government and understand that it is undermining the army’s future role in the country.

As the war between these two groups escalates, Senior General Than Shwe’s rapidly deteriorating health has effectively left the country without a real leader. The result is total inertia in government administration and a growing fear that one of the contesting factions may launch a “soft coup” in the near future, according to Burmese military sources.

But the “real” Army, as these officers view themselves, is going to have to act quickly if it is to remain a force to be reckoned with. The planned referendum for May and the election in two years time will radically change the country’s political landscape. The USDA, which is organising both the referendum and the elections, will significantly increase its power and control over the country’s new emerging political process.

Senior members of the army are increasingly resentful of the growing dominance of the USDA and the likely curtailment of the army’s authority after the referendum in May. “It will bring an abrupt end to the army’s absolute power,” said a Burmese government official.

At the center of this emerging battle for supremacy is the growing division within the Army between those who graduated from the Officers Training School (OTS) like Than Shwe, and those who went to the Defence Services Academy (DSA) like Maung Aye.

Many Cabinet ministers associated with the USDA are from the OTS, as are several hardliners within the ruling SPDC, though some no longer have operational commands. These leaders are known to have the ear of Than Shwe and have convinced him to take an uncompromising stand against detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

These key ministers, including Industry Minister Aung Thaung, Fisheries Minister Maung Maung Thein (who is also head of the powerful Myanmar Investment Commission), Construction Minister Saw Htun and Agriculture Minister Htay Oo (who is also a key leader of the USDA), are notorious hardliners and amongst the most corrupt members of the government.

They have all amassed huge personal fortunes from smuggling and kickbacks. “These fellows are out of control and racking up the money from bribery and fraud – not even Maung Aye, who despises excessive corruption, can touch them,” a Burmese military source told Mizzima on condition of anonymity.

They have been in government now for over eight years and are entrenched in their lifestyles and practises. Everyone seems powerless to stop them at present, according to Burmese government sources. “They are known as ‘the Nazis’ within the top ranks of the army,” according to a Burmese businessman with close links to the military hierarchy. “They have the money and they have their own militia,” he added.

Many in the army now fear that this group – with some senior officers in the SPDC, current or former heads of the Bureau of Special Operations (BSO) – are planning a grab for power using the USDA as a front. “They are the real enemies of the people,” said the Burmese businessman.

But there are now growing numbers within the army that are viewing these developments with increasing concern. There is mounting resentment and frustration amongst the junior officers in the Ministry of Defence in the new capital of Naypyitaw (Nay Pyi Taw).

Many of the junior officers are divisional commanders, aged between 47 and 55. These are the army’s “young Turks,” who are alarmed at the way in which the USDA is growing in influence at the expense of the army.

“They are watching their unscrupulous colleagues, hiding behind the uniform, building up massive fortunes from corruption in government and they are worried that this tarnishes the image of the army,” said a source in Naypyitaw.

“It’s time to get rid of the OTS bastards,” an officer recently told a visiting businessman. But so far there are no signs of a palace coup. Many officers may feel aggrieved, but there is no open discussion as yet about doing anything in practise. “The climate of fear that pervades the whole country is also prevalent in the military,” a Thai military intelligence officer told Mizzima.

“There is no doubt that many in the army are extremely unhappy with they way things are going, and are concerned about what will happen to them after the referendum and the elections,” he said. “But they are army officers, and will continue to obey their orders unquestioningly,” he said.

Yet there are now signs that the top few generals under Than Shwe may be beginning to form an informal alliance against the USDA leadership – and possibly Than Shwe himself. These are the deputy chief of the military, Maung Aye, Chief of Staff Thura Shwe Mann, Prime Minister Thein Sein and Secretary One of the SPDC, Tin Aung Myint Oo.

So far there is little to suggest that they are planning a purge of their opponents in the same way that former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and his intelligence apparatus were crushed four years ago. “Nothing can be ruled out at this stage as resentment and anger is growing amongst the junior officers and rank-and-file soldiers,” said Win Min, an independent analyst based at Chiang Mai University.

But a pre-emptive strike against some of the key people in the USDA is definitely underway. Fisheries Minister Maung Maung Thein and the BSOs, Maung Bo and Ye Myint, are being secretly investigated by the Bureau of Special Investigations over bribery, kickbacks and illegal smuggling, a source inside the regime told Mizzima.

Maung Maung Thein and Maung Bo are under intense scrutiny for allegations of smuggling. At least 90 percent of the fish caught in Burmese waters are smuggled out through Thailand, especially Ranong, according to informed industry sources. Burma is estimated to be losing more than $500 million as a result.

For more than six months now the Myanmar Investment Commission, also controlled by Maung Maung Thein, has refused to grant import and export licenses to those in the construction industry to anyone not part of the USDA, according to Burmese businessmen. Licences granted for construction projects are crucial for the economy. For example, licenses are obtained to import cars and trucks theoretically needed for a construction project but instead sold for a massive profit.

Several other ministers and members of the SPDC and their families are also under investigation, according to government sources. Maung Maung Thein’s infamous son, Ko Pauk (Myint Thein) had his timber business dissolved a few weeks ago for malpractice. Maung Bo’s son’s business, the Hurricane Bar, is also under investigation concerning drugs.

There are many other businesses and businessmen affiliated with USDA members being investigated, including the Managing Director of Asia Light, Soe Myint.

This has not happened in the past and indicates the concern the top military commanders have about corruption and what it is doing to the army’s reputation. “It’s an effort to distinguish between the government or USDA and the army,” a senior military man told Mizzima.

Most of this is still behind closed doors. There is still no open confrontation between the two camps. In part that is because the SPDC quarterly meeting has been continuously postponed by Than Shwe for fear that it may open up a war between himself and his top subordinates.

One of the main reasons the ruling council has not met for more than nine months is that Than Shwe is trying to avoid the meeting as he knows Maung Aye will demand the resignations of at least four of the BSOs – including Maung Bo and Ye Myint. The last meeting reportedly ended when Maung Aye refused to accept Than Shwe’s recommendation that Maung Bo be promoted to a full general, according to Burmese military sources.

At least two of them have since been removed from their commands – Khin Maung Than and Maung Bo being replaced by Khin Saw and Tha Aye (both graduates of the DSA) and Myint Hlaing is soon expected to replace Tin Aye. However, although they no longer have operational command for their regions they remain on the SPDC, imposed by Than Shwe.

If these three BSA commanders and DSA officers also replaced their predecessors on the SPDC it would radically change the composition of the council. Four years ago, with the support of his OTS men, Than Shwe’s authority was unchallenged – but with these new promotions Maung Aye and Thura Shwe Mann would effectively control the SPDC.

As a result of the constant postponement of the SPDC quarterly meeting all promotions within the army have ground to a halt. “The top generals have not met [for the quarterly meeting] for months, since before the August and September protests. So during that time, apart from the appointment of three regional commanders, there have been no promotions,” said Win Min.

“The impact of this will certainly add to the growing frustration amongst some of the commanders who should have already been promoted,” he said.

Time is now running out for the top generals under Than Shwe if they are to take control.

They know that after the referendum in May their position will become increasingly less significant, as Ministers and selected military generals move into the USDA and take up civilian roles in the future. At the same time they fear that widespread corruption will also destroy the country and its political stability.

“The real Army is the only institution that can bring genuine democracy to the country in the future,” a military man told Mizzima. “The new generation of officers represent the real hope for the country.” They would be open to a political dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, he insisted, as they see themselves as the real guardians of the country.

In the meantime, Than Shwe’s health is rapidly deteriorating and he is fast losing his memory. He is increasingly withdrawn and reclusive. His position is now becoming progressively more perilous, despite his carefully planned schemes, according to many specialists on Burma’s military.

“It is not worth risking a crisis when nature may solve it for us legally and peacefully,” Maung Aye recently told some of his close confidantes. But with the referendum only weeks away the army may yet have to move against the corrupt USDA lobby before it’s too late.


Written by Lwin Aung Soe

March 21, 2008 at 4:22 pm

The goal: A transition to democracy

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Posted on Fri, Jan. 11, 2008

Three months have passed since the world called on Burma’s dictators, Gens. Than Shwe and Maung Aye, to end their brutal crackdown on tens of thousands of peaceful monks and other demonstrators and to begin a genuine dialogue with Burma’s democratic and ethnic minority leaders — with the goal of a transition to democracy. The time has come for them to act.

With the strong backing of the U.N. Security Council, U.N. special advisor Ibrahim Gambari has made two trips to Burma, also called Myanmar, since the crackdown to try to facilitate a dialogue. Through him, democratic leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has reaffirmed her willingness to participate in a ”meaningful and time-bound” dialogue to be joined by representatives of the country’s ethnic minority groups.

Arresting activists

This is a rare opportunity to help put Burma on the path to democratic civilian rule and to greater stability and prosperity. But while the regime initially made a few unremarkable gestures, such as appointing an official to interact with Aung San Suu Kyi and allowing her to meet once with a few democratic colleagues, it has since halted even this hint of progress and, in fact, has moved backward.

It has continued to arrest activists and harass Buddhist monks, recently closing a monastery that served as an AIDS hospice. Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest, and the junta has refused her request to have two colleagues serve as liaisons to the government. On Dec. 3, senior regime officials delivered their harshest comments yet, rejecting any role for the opposition in drafting the constitution, blaming Aung San Suu Kyi for the lack of progress on a dialogue and describing the September demonstrations it suppressed as “trivial.”

The United States does not regard such violence and the beating, detention and reported torture of peaceful protesters, including monks, as trivial. As first lady Laura Bush has said, “it seems the generals are indifferent to the Burmese people’s suffering, but the rest of the world is not.”

Dialogue would enable the Burmese people, through legitimate political and ethnic representatives, to discuss with the regime ways to broaden the political process — including participation in the drafting of a constitution. This way the results will have legitimacy and popular support, allowing the full array of talent available in Burmese society to tackle the country’s many problems.

The greatest threat

While the regime argues that it is the only force capable of keeping the country unified and that any change outside its control risks turmoil and instability, the reality is that the regime and its policies are the greatest threat to Burma’s unity, stability and prosperity.

The military rulers have brought about a steady decline in living standards and a deterioration in educational and public health systems. They have caused a continuing flow of refugees, narcotics and dangerous diseases into neighboring countries, and have so distressed and frustrated the people that they took to the streets by the thousands despite the risk of brutal suppression.

This is a horrendous track record, but Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic leaders have nevertheless said that the Burmese military has an important role to play in a peaceful transition to democracy. With Than Shwe and Maung Aye showing no willingness to move in this direction, many in their regime should be increasingly uncomfortable with their policies and the country’s direction.

The United States wants to see a strong, prosperous, stable and free Burma. We are convinced that the only way to achieve this objective is through the sort of broad national dialogue that Gambari is trying to facilitate with Security Council support. That’s why it is critical that China, India, the ASEAN countries and Burma’s other neighbors use any and all influence to support the U.N. effort and press the regime to initiate a dialogue. It is also why the United Nations should quicken the pace of its diplomacy.

Release Aung San Suu Kyi

As part of this effort, the United States will continue to target regime leaders and their cronies with sanctions. President Bush has promised that our country will continue to pressure the Burmese dictators to ensure that there is no return to business as usual. The world must not turn its back on the people of Burma and allow the regime’s disregard for human dignity to continue. Together, we must apply sustained and strong pressure while making clear that a successful dialogue leading to a political transition would enable Burma to make a full return to the international system.

There are steps the junta could take immediately that would signal its seriousness — releasing Aung San Suu Kyi and others, allowing them freedom of association and ending the ongoing crackdown. Meanwhile, Gambari plans to return to Burma soon. It is time for the generals to tell him — and the Burmese people — that they will begin a genuine dialogue and take the steps necessary for it to succeed. The time has come to ask the senior generals: What are you waiting for?

R. Nicholas Burns is U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs.

©2007 The Washington Post 

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

January 12, 2008 at 3:18 am