Bush Undercutting Momentum in Burma

UPDATE: Here’s the latest: “Myanmar’s military government announced Tuesday night a curfew and a ban on assemblies of more than five people, witnesses said.” Bush shrugged and said: “Oh well, no one can say I didn’t try.”

UPDATE No. 2: The New York Times has the latest must read including a quote from Soe Aung. Coincidentally a Soe Tun Aung commented to my earlier post on Burma. I wouldn’t be surprised if its the same person because “commenter at CFLF” and “quoted by the New York Times” should be roughly equivalent.

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The media gave Bush another load of free PR yesterday evening as they trumpeted the White House announcement that it was increasing sanctions on the military junta in Burma. The details of the sanctions are almost completely ignored because the “increase” is the equivalent of moving from a a slap on the wrist to a love-punch. Oh, scary … a few guys won’t get visas until the world once again is no longer looking.

As if on cue, today we get the report that troops are converging on the protesters. The military junta obviously read Bush’s message as: “Have at them Monks, Fellas. They seem to have gotten outside their free speech zones.” And let me tell you, the free speech zone in Burma ends somewhere between your brain and your mouth.

Clearly, the Bush equation is to pay the smallest price required to get the necessary headlines that mislead the American public into really believe he is doing something about Burma. Unfortunately, the people who will pay the price for this sleight of hand will be the monks, nuns and all the other pro-democracy protesters in Burma.

Today, Bush will address the General Assembly at the UN and you can expect him to say some bad things about the military junta but don’t expect matching action.

Yet, this is the precise time for action. China, the military junta’s main protector, is worried about the effect a violent crackdown will have on its efforts to promote itself internationally through the coming summer Olympics in Beijing. The world’s leaders are gathered at the UN and the US can lead the way to strong UN action. Not only does Bush need step up, but let’s seek accountability from Gordon Brown, Nickolas Sarkozy, Ban Ki Moon and all the world’s leaders.

2 Responses to “Bush Undercutting Momentum in Burma”

  1. Mick Arran says:

    It’s ironic, in a way, that it was Bush’s father who last had a Golden Opportunity to hurt the Junta during the ’88 rebellion.

    He turned it down, too.

  2. matttbastard says:

    AP reports that China has “gently urged Myanmar’s military rulers to ease the strife that has seen tens of thousands take to the streets in protest”:

    China has quietly shifted gears, the diplomats said, jettisoning its noninterventionist line for behind-the-scenes diplomacy. A senior Chinese official asked junta envoys this month to reconcile with opposition democratic forces. And China arranged a low-key meeting in Beijing between Myanmar and State Department envoys to discuss the release of the leading opposition figure.

    For a country that has been Myanmar’s staunchest diplomatic protector, largest trading partner and a leading investor, the shift is crucial. Asian and Western diplomats in Beijing and Southeast Asia said China’s influence in Myanmar is second to none and could be decisive in restraining the junta from a violent confrontation with protesters.

    […]

    China’s political and economic interests in Myanmar are spurring it to act, diplomats and experts said. With an Olympics in Beijing next year already bringing China heightened scrutiny, Chinese leaders are likely loath to be associated with another repressive, unpopular regime.

    Criticism from foreign governments and international activist groups already have caused Beijing to pare back lending to Zimbabwe and put pressure on Sudan to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur.

    Most interestingly (to me, at least, since I was previously unaware this had occurred, although it may have been previously reported and I just happened to miss it):

    In June, Beijing hosted two days of talks between junta envoys and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric John. The State Department and U.S. Embassy declined to disclose details. Diplomats from other Western embassies said among the topics was relaxing house arrest for Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s democratic opposition.

    Again, you are right to be dismissive of hollow PR theatrics by the Chimp-in-Chief; the real action will be happening behind the scenes. The nations you mentioned need to continue exerting diplomatic pressure on China if another (seemingly inevitable) bloody crackdown is to be avoided.

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