In His Time

By Kanbawza Win | 22 April 2011 | Friday

As I mused over the gospel song of “In His Time, He makes all things beautiful in His time.” nostalgia caught me up at the time of the Burmese New Year, Thingyan. The people of Burma has been despaired about the possibility of real change now that the electoral coup has been complete while the International Crisis Group endeavours to pave the graceful exists of Than Shwe and who knows may be lavished by the Burmese strong man via their proxy cooperate as he knows very well that ICG has to dance to the pull of their corporate patrons.

The people of Burma as a whole feel doomed to live under the Junta that have been  ripping off their wealth and beaten down dissent and the now the international corporate think tanks have come out clearly supporting the Junta. Given the disunity among the pro democracy movement as well as among the aging ethnic leaders, it seems that the West has to surrender this despair, of only a strongman could hold back the country together and that once democracy is achieved Balkanization in Burma is bound to follow. This is the strong point of the Junta which no ethnic or pro-democratic leader, would dare to admit.

The other day I came across a farang who have just come back from Rangoon and had   met not only Daw Aung San Suu Kyi but also participated in some of the NLD’s activities. On enquiry he answered that he observes that there are only two conspicuous categories of people.  . One is a septuagenarian or octogenarian and the other is all under 30 years of age who are enthusiastically participating in the NLD activities. Good News. In a country rotted with repression since the military took power in 1962, most of the working middle age persons especially the intelligentsia has fled the country and only those old men were left to tell the horrible tales while the youths have come to witness the suffering of the people are abiding their time waiting for the spark to set off. Clearly there is hope for Burma, for the young generations will show their strength and finished off the hated military one day. Even now the office of the Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing under the direction of Than Shwe has alerted security forces to guard against potential unrest in the wake of African and Middle Eastern pro-democracy demonstrations. During the March 21 meeting, the Chief of Staff (Army, Navy, Air Force) said that broadcasts of the “political unrest in Africa and the Middle East”—including TV stations and internet social media such as Face book—as well as “powerful countries” were involved in forcing military intervention there. Therefore the armed forces must be aware of the situation and ready to respond immediately with military action if something similar was to occur in Burma, he added.

There is a world difference for the offspring of the generals and its economic cronies with that of an average youth in Burma. Disciplined democracy cannot survive or thrive if the younger generations are silenced. The only condition that applies to all the political parties is to nod their heads what the dictators have to say. Under six decades of quasi military rule, the Revolutionary Council, Burmese Socialist Programme Party, SLORC (SPDC) and now the USDP (Union solidarity and Development Party) the senior military officers enjoyed perks and wealth while the people and the entire country suffered. Up to this day according to the propaganda the army Tatmadaw is the father and the mother of the country and the soldiers are taught that they are the only patriotic people in Burma, while the rest are parasites that does not have a pale of patriotism and as such should not think twice to kill them as their captains used to quote that Burma has fifty five million of people and so if need be if the Tatmadaw kills five million still there are another fifty million people left. Hence they justify the ethnic cleansing, rape, looting and even crime against humanity itself. But they also realize that electronic media has come in and many of the youths including those in uniforms know the truth. One day that truth will come out and there is nothing to hide. The Burmese Generals cannot lie the very concept of truth all the time.

Nobody can foresee how the younger generations will unleash their power when that time comes. But they had witnessed of how the monks which the people adored and worship has been gunned down in cold blood, how the patriotic leaders has been jailed and tortured and how the government not only refused to help the people but also prevented the international community from helping the people in time of natural catastrophes. Once the younger generation unleashed their power the consequences will be beyond our imagination. The Generals clearly vision this scenario. Even now the Middle East has its own version of people’s uprising. Each Arab in his own country is unhappy in its own way. Libya and Syria are more repressive than Egypt. Yemen is complicated because of the secession, Tunisia approach is still to be seen and many more will come.

The speed with which the popular protest long lasting authoritarian regimes in the Middle East was enough to unnerve the autocrats everywhere. The Burmese Generals may be quite immune to this power of the people for the moment as they rely on their isolation and sheer ruthlessness of the Tatmadaw. Even the Chinese leaders ostensibly so confident of the correctness of the path they have chosen, has been wary of the memories of the Middle East might evoke and rekindle the spirit of the Tiananmen Square Incident. Cold shivers have been going down the spines of these autocratic leaders.

But it has to be admitted that China’s rise had led to the talk of “Beijing Consensus” in which rapid economic growth matters most than people’s freedom, which was echo by ASEAN’s Constructive Engagement Policy on Burma. But the Burmese has seen the huge demonstrations in 1988, the mood of elated mass solidarity and rediscovered patriotism, the slogans against the ruling elites and arbitrary rule and the belief that the Tatmadaw has sided with the people against the corrupt Generals and is not afraid the appearance of MIS (Military Intelligence Service).the thugs that supported the regime had learnt their lessons. The old people had relayed all these epic stories to the younger generation who will have to avoid these mistakes and are bound to be more sober and realistic.

Have the ruling elites, both the military and in mufti quite confident with the newly installed puppet government? If so they would not have devoted so much time, energy and resources in patrolling the internet and would not hire the Russian, Chinese and Singaporean technicians to eavesdrop on the young Burmese. There is no logic to ban SKYPE or VOIP or YOU TUBE, where a picture speaks a thousand words. Even the traditional Thingyan Thangyat (သၾကၤန္သံခ်ပ္) the sarcastic rhymes and rhythm used to make fun of unfair things for a joke were not allowed by the regime lest they would be put to shame. So guilty is their conscience that they have forbidden everything and the younger generations have no outlet but indirectly was force to plan for mass uprising.  Always twitchy at the hint of instability it has plenty to fret, unfair aspects, gross human rights violations, ethnic cleansing, the soaring of the basic staple food, rice, the widespread unemployment, the discontentment of the farmers and the urban people and the thirst for knowledge and wisdom by the young generations.

But the outside world can play its part Barack Obama had eventually made a right choice in appointing Derek Mitchell as the US Special Representative for Burma. He is currently the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs at the Department of Defence, and was a foreign policy advisor to the Obama campaign who knows the mentality of the Burmese Generals. Daw Suu herself was cautiously optimistic when she construes him as a friend that will help usher a true democratic reform as smoothly and as quickly as possible. To repeat the words of Aung Din, “Derek is an excellent choice as he knows Burma very well and is capable of strengthening the U.S. sanctions policy on Burma's regime by coordinating within the US, EU, Canada and Australia.” The well balanced carrot and stick policy.

Indeed Obama has taken the lead by backing the protestors in the Arab world and have pressed the rulers to bolster the reforms rather than violence even though the repressive regimes of Egypt, Soudi Arabia, and the likes. The synchronizing of the American policy on Burma with the other Western partners like, EU, Canada and Australia whose values are much superior than the Asian values demonstrated by China, India and the ASEAN.

It is understood that the West which have imposed sanctions of varying degrees have lose sway over Naypyidaw vis a vis China but of late the EU had lifted sanctions on 4 ministers and 18 vice ministers who had minimum links with the military which will be overjoyed by the Junta cronies since they are dying to send their offspring to the West to study as in their hearts of hearts they knew too well that it is not only education but the Western values of democracy and human rights are more valuable and holistic in life then the Asian values of giving priority to economic progress over freedom.

Obama stance of more dialogue did not tantamount to lifting sanctions. The West should not think about lifting sanctions until and unless all the political prisoners are released. The changes announced by the West particularly US and EU strike a balance approach of keeping the Generals isolated and talking to the people of Burma. It strikes the right note. Meanwhile everything must be done to educate the upcoming generations of Burma so that they can execute in its time. We hope and pray that foreign NGOs would encourage the higher education of these young generations who would (go back if they are in Diaspora and) work for the country.

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