International Responsibility in Burma
Almost every week, there are a number of complaints about violations of human rights from Burma. Military rulers try tactics one after the other to maintain their rule, but they have failed to win the people’s confidence. Last month, the 2,000 families living in Delhi out of the 50,000 Burmese refugee families living in India rejected the first stage of the seven-phase roadmap. This roadmap – a one-sided proposal of the Burmese military regime – is said to be the final session to lay down the principles of a new constitution for Burma, but most consider this act to be merely another attempt of the dictators to maintain military rule in the country.
In fact, for years the people of Burma [renamed Myanmar in 1989] have been under the curse of [the Junta] military dictatorship. Since 1989, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Laureate and the most popular pro-democracy leader of the country, has continuously been under house arrest and her activities have been restricted. She has only one female attendant with her. There are only two people permitted to see her. One of them is Dr. Tin Myo Win, her physician, who can see her with the permission of the military authorities and the other is Gambari, the UN envoy who saw her twice last year. In all circumstances, whether in a state of illness or good health, she takes care of herself.
The whole world knows that in 1990, the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the general elections in Burma, but the military dictators refused to recognize the people’s verdict. They completely deprived people of their civil rights and exercise continuous control over the media, as seen fom the incident last month when on the occasion of the opening session of the national convention, all journalists from abroad were not allowed to cover the proceedings.
To deprive people of their democratic rights or to deny them the right of building their own future is a sin. The situation becomes more serious when a group of compatriots is bent on taking democratic rights away from the people. What does one do in such circumstances? In my opinion, the international community in general and neighbours like India and China, who after the end of the Cold War and the events of September 11, 2001 have become globally more influential, have a much greater responsibility in such a situation in particular.
Today, not a single country in the world is in a position to exist or to function in isolation, no matter how mighty it is. Countries are very interdependent to the extent that united action has become compulsory. In such a state it is not possible even for a country where a group of dictators deprives its people of freedom to ignore international pressure.
Through collective decisions, including threatening boycotts and non-violent non-cooperation, it might be possible to pressure the dictators of a country like Burma. However, one must keep the safety of the people of Burma in mind and the difficulties that these people experience every day. According to a report submitted this month by the UNDP, the humanitarian catastrophe underway in Burma, due to mismanagement of the economy, is so bad that many people do not have enough food to eat.
Dr. Ravindra Kumar is a renowned Gandhian scholar, Indologist, India expert and writer. He is the former Vice-Chancellor of the CCS University of Meerut, India.