Western Values are Superior then the Eastern Ones, in the Burmese Context

By Kanbawza Win | October 26, 2010 | Tuesday

The Burmese Junta used to boast and justify that half of the world’s population recognize and eulogize its regime and all its actions are right and correct, even though the Western countries consider the Burmese regime as the most egregious human rights violator of the world. Perhaps this hypothesis may have some salt in it because the population of China, India and ASEAN countries is more than half of the world’s population. All these countries have supported the Burmese Junta in the international forums especially in the UNSC and it stands tall.

Even though the world’s major religions like Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism, all have its origin in the East (Asia)  when it come to practical application of its religious teachings especially by political leaders, the West far outpaced the East, at least in the Burmese context. The Chinese Communists and Confucianism representing more than one and half billion people combined with Indian’s Hinduism of another one and half billion people not to mention the Islamic countries of Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia of nearly half a billion people, pales miserably if compared to the Judeo Christian of the West. The East i.e. Asia is the biggest supporter of the Burmese dictatorial regime, no qualms about it as they felt no sympathy or remorse for the mass of the suffering people of Burma.  

With an election just a week away, even those democratic pretenders who have decided to take part in the elections know that the regime’s plan to use it as a means of installing a new generation of military rulers. Even the most committed apologist, psychopaths and opportunists who insists that the elections is a major step forward, accepted the fact that it is a continuation of the present system under a different guise, if not an old wine in new bottles. The simple logic is how can the media announce the cabinet when the elections have not taken place?

The mistreatments of political prisoners, brutalization of democracy advocates, used of forced labour and child soldiers, and vicious campaigns against the ethnic nationalities, including systematic rapes, extrajudicial killings of civilians even in major towns like Pegu and other cities, not to mention of the unknown victims in the villages, and the destruction of entire communities and villages in its ethnic cleansing policy and committing genocide are all blind to the leaders of the Asian counties. The Chinese, Indians and ASEAN Countries will continue to support the Burmese regime, mocking their religions of Confucian or Communism (China) Hinduism (India), Buddhism (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) Islam (Indonesia and Malaysia) and even Christianity (Philippines). Perhaps their version of religion falls short of satisfying their basic human and social need. In short the values of Asian leaders did not have a pale of legitimacy and is pathetic if compared to the values of the Western ones.

The news that the Obama administration had decided to back the Commission of Inquiry known by its acronym CoI into crimes against humanity has been greeted warmly by the civilized community especially in the West and the democratic forces of the world. At least the thinking is that the wheels of justice have been set in motion even though it will take a long time to grind.   

Governments concerned about war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma should move beyond mere condemnation and establish a United Nations CoI as UN expert Thomas Ojea Quintana report on Burma was released. More than 12 countries have publicly supported a CoI into violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Burma, including EU member states such as the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ireland, as well as the United States and Canada. The EU is the lead sponsor of the annual Burma resolution at the UN General Assembly, which is currently in session in New York.

After more than  two decades of the UN resolutions condemning what amounts to war crimes in Burma, real accountability is needed to end the cycle of impunity .Burma's courageous civil society activists, monks, students, ethnic nationalities, and opposition leaders have called for an international commission of inquiry. They won't get a democratic government on November 7, but the UN can take a first step to ensure justice and that it will no longer be cost-free to continue committing human rights abuses.

"If the Government fails to assume this responsibility to investigate international crimes, then the responsibility falls to the international community. Justice and accountability are the very foundation of the United Nations system rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which calls for an international order in which the rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration can be fully realized. Failing to act on accountability in Burma will embolden the perpetrators of international crimes and further postpone long-overdue justice,” was quoted by Quintana, A regime that uses rape as a weapon of war, forced labour, torture and the forcible conscription of child soldiers on a widespread and systematic basis, as well as destroying more than 3,300 ethnic villages in eastern Burma alone, uses villagers as human minesweepers and carries out religious and ethnic persecution, must not be allowed to continue unchallenged. The UN now has no excuse for inaction. Its own Rapporteurs besides Quintana, Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (2000-2008) of Brazil and Professor Yozo Yokoda (1992-1996) of Japan, have all  made the recommendation, in the clearest possible way, for action to end impunity, and the time has come for the member states, the various organs of the UN and the Secretary-General himself to stand up and be counted.  Asia’s Darfur and cannot be ignored any longer.

The Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC)'s latest IDP report says – “At least 470,000 people are currently estimated to be internally displaced in the rural areas of eastern Burma alone. Approximately 128,000 other villagers have followed SPDC eviction orders and moved into designated relocation sites. At least 75,000 people were forced to leave their homes in eastern Burma between August 2008 and July 2009. The highest rates of recent displacement were reported in northern Karen areas and southern Shan State.”

It can be seen that the Asian countries are not keen on CoI especially China and India as it will hit their vested interest. This lack of a collective approach from the international community toward the Burmese military regime has resulted in stalled efforts at the UN on the establishment of CoI and the Junta has weathered various big and small storms in the past several years. A request from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, to visit Naypyidaw was flatly denied. Mr Ban also failed to convince the Burmese leaders during the UN General Assembly that closer engagement and dialogue with his office would be to their advantage.

A real investigation into all parties to the conflict could act as a catalyst for a long-overdue process of multi lateral peace-building and national reconciliation, Beside the report of Quintana the reports by International Committee of Red Cross, Amnesty International , the International Federation of Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and others came to the same conclusion. Hence, it has become the responsibility of the society – national and international alike – to address those heinous crimes in appropriate ways. The truth will be uncovered; society may find ways to address the sufferings of the victims of heinous crimes; peaceful movements of grassroots people who are seeking justice will be strengthened; pressure on the ruling military regime from the national and international community to transform society may notably increase, it may lead to reformation of security forces such as army, police and intelligent organizations and justice mechanism, including the judiciary. And finally, legal action might be taken on the perpetrators of heinous crimes by the International Criminal Court and a genuine democratic transition for Burma may become a reality.

Surely China which has a seat on the UN Security Council blocked the moves even though it has become an international actor and is attempting to maintain its dignity. In the first major test of the strategy, the annual debate on human rights at the U.N. General Assembly, the Obama administration of the US was the only country that explicitly called for consideration of a commission of inquiry. Obviously the custodians of Asian values like China and ASEAN countries led by Singapore including Russia, strongly oppose the proposal. Here, one can notice the Chinese mentality whether it is the Chinese from China or the Chinese from Singapore. In their hearts of hearts they knew very well that they can get the maximum profit only if the dictators are in power as they can bypass the people and deal with the dictators to exploit the human and materials resources of the country like Burma. So it was a foregone conclusion that they vehemently protested the American proposal. Malinowski, the Washington, D.C.-based director of advocacy for Human Rights Watch said "One should recognize why the Chinese are against this: They recognize it would be a consequential measure," It seems that once Burma is passed, China and Russia will be in the next list. But it has to be admitted that the proprio motu [‘by one’s own volition’] cannot be taken because Burma has not ratified the Rome Statute as of yet; as well, because the UN Security Council has not yet referred the situation of Burma to the ICC.

The Chinese government has launched a high-octane diplomatic campaign during the past two months aimed at thwarting the Obama administration's plan to back an international probe into possible war crimes by Burma's military rulers knowing full well that human rights violations are the result of a state policy. China has forcefully urged European and Asian countries and the U.N. leadership to oppose the measure on the grounds that it could undermine Burma's fragile political transition, according to diplomats and human rights advocates. Just days after the United States signalled support for the war crimes commission, China's U.N. ambassador, Li Baodong, paid a confidential visit to Ban's chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, to make his opposition clear. Of course U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon could do it under his own authority but he is unlikely to pursue the proposal lest he will not get the Chinese vote for the second term in its office.

What ever the outcome may be, an arrest warrants if ever issued by the ICC to the top generals of Burma who have shed their uniforms and turned into civilians to take high political positions after the 2010 election, will seriously damage their dream for achieving legitimacy under the rule of the military dictatorship. Asian leaders and values have once again failed miserably to save the people of Burma and seems to encourage the Generals’ believe that piety will protect them from the karmic consequences. The civilized international community must have great reservations against the Chinese of any colour.

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