Will Business Always Over-rules the Conscience?

By Kanbawza Win | 8 August 2014 | Taunggyi Time

With John Kerry landing in Nyapydaw this Saturday, whatever lingering moral authority remaining in the administration of President Barack Obama may fell to dust. In a country like Burma; one is immediately struck by the staggering glibness that tore a great many people to pieces, among them many innocents, particularly the non Myanmar ethnic nationalities.

As bad as the "some folks" gambit was, this, this right here, is where the moral authority of the American president and his administration became a dumpster fire. No one has any business blaming President Obama and his administration for the deplorable actions of his predecessor. However, the simple fact of the matter is that all of them swore a public oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. They are required to swear that oath not for the times when defending the Constitution is easy, but for the times when it is hard. Otherwise, the oath itself is pointless.

Beyond that oath is the Geneva Convention Against Torture, of which Burma is not a signatory. The American Constitution was violated, the Geneva Convention was violated, and still everyone walked away because Burma is moving towards democracy. The moral failure in this is so vast as to be bottomless. President Obama isn't going to get any static from them on the issue of torture; which the Myanmar had inflicted on their enemies (both Myanmar and non Myanmar) since the monarchial days of which Adnoram Judson is but one of them their hands are grimy with the blood they helped to spill.

That line was directed at people like us but to everyone who stood up and shouted from the rafters that torture is wrong, that the regime is evil, and the people who did it need to be punished if the United States has even a whiff of a prayer of recovering its morality after so long and cruel and despicable a practice which the Burmese Junta has imposed on its own people. It seems that the torturers are the "real patriots" here, you see, and those of us who stood against them - and will ever do so - are only being "sanctimonious" in our outrage.[1]

The whole thing reeks of a cover-up, but don't get too sanctimonious about it. The Generals were "patriots," and we were "afraid," and besides, it was just "some folks" who were tortured. Yes they are afraid of Democracy and Genuine Federalism, the very Spirit of Union itself (ျပည္ေထာင္စုစိတ္ဓာတ္). What took place during the long, gruesome practice of torture for more than half a century is a stain on the soul of Burma? President Obama has done nothing to bring those responsible to justice. Now by lining up with and defending the torturers, he has added his name to the roll call of shame that continues to dishonor the American nation whose hall marks is democracy and human rights.

“If Kerry is going to visit, then he needs to address the fact that the plight of the ethnics has not gotten better,” said Daniel Sullivan, the policy director for United to End Genocide, a Washington-based organized dedicated to ending mass atrocities. “It’s gotten worse.”[2]

Kerry’s visit has debate pits advocates who demand a stronger response to human rights concerns -- including -- against analysts who urge a more delicate dance of diplomacy.

“The administration can do more on this issue. As we tie a nice bow on what we call a success story, we need to make sure we aren’t a cheap date when it comes to human rights.” said representative, Jim McGovern of Worcester.[3] The congressman helped spearhead a congressional letter to Kerry last week that warned conditions in Burma had taken “a sharp turn for the worse” and urged more restrictive measures, such as targeted sanctions. More than 70 lawmakers signed on, including all House members from Massachusetts. The Worcester congressman pushed a separate resolution through the House in May that highlighted the Bengali’s plight, a move he labeled a “friendly reminder” for the White House.

Florida Republican Marco Rubio, ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that reviews relations with Burma, asked Kerry on Thursday to confront issues thwarting its democratic progress. Rubio, in a letter co-written by Republican Senator Mark Kirk from Illinois, called the government’s failure to stop the violence “unacceptable” and instructed him to meet with just as many people outside leadership. “I can anticipate that Secretary Kerry will press Burma’s leaders as he and the president have done, to protect and to respect the rights of all the people in the country, and to put in place greater safeguards for their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Daniel Russell, the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told reporters this week. But it remains unclear just how far Kerry will go in his criticism toward a country often framed as one of the administration’s few foreign policy successes.

“We need to be cautious about wanting to speed it up and going out and making very strong and aggressive statements,’’ said Joseph Liow, Southeast Asia studies chair at The Brookings Institution’s Center for East Asia Policy Studies. “Of course it satisfies domestic audiences in the U.S. and lawmakers would be happy. But beyond political points for making such statements, how does that help the problem we are trying to shed light on?”

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), as the summit is called, is a feather in President Thein Sein’s cap. It was in order to be considered worthy of the honour of hosting such events, and the kudos of welcoming the likes of Mr. Kerry, that he went out on a limb, rolling back press censorship, freeing most political prisoners and enacting other important reforms. First the European Union then the US lifted sanctions that had frozen trade relations with the West for decades. President Obama welcomed his Burmese counterpart to the Oval Office, and for the first overseas outing of his second term headed straight for the one foreign destination that he could claim as an unblemished success story of his first four years.[4]

Unblemished it is no more. The legalised assault on Unity Journal’s brave journalists was just like the bad old days. Courageous journalism who had known all the time that the Tatmadaw has used chemical weapons against the ethnic freedom fighters was made bare Hence it suddenly became very much harder to report the truth because the corner stone of the Tatmadaw was “To tell lies against the very concept of truth.” is their unwritten Tatmadaw rule. The cat cannot be led out of the bag. Now that the sanctions are all gone but the job of reform is only half done? And while the Unity Journal’s staffs are paying an outrageous price for doing their jobs, the government is digging in its heels and refusing even to consider further, much-needed reforms.[5] In the past three months, a coalition of opposition forces has been holding rallies to demand radical reform of the 2008 Nargis Constitution, designed to cut back the dominating role of the military – they hold 25 per cent of parliamentary seats, and remove the arbitrary rule that prevents Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from running for president.[6]

A petition demanding these changes has gathered five million signatures.[7] But Thein Sein and his colleagues have shown no interest whatsoever in even discussing them. President Obama is said to be considering a second visit later in the year to this lonely outpost of presidential achievement. John Kerry should make it amply clear that the visit is not going to happen unless President Thein Sein pays serious attention to reforming the 2008 Nargis Constitution.

To sum up Kerry’s visit he needs to tackle the following aspects:-
1. Ongoing religious conflict;
2. Prolonged war in ethnic areas, and ethnic nationalities living in camps for internally displaced people;
3. Long-term imprisonment of journalists;
4. Delayed constitutional reform and;
5. Uncertain conditions in the run up to the 2015 election.[8]


[1] Pitt; William Rivers, The Dumpster Fire of Obama's Moral Authority 7-8-2014 Truthout | Op-Ed
[2] Meyers; Jessica, John Kerry urged to take harder line on rights issues in Burma Boston Globe 7-8-2014
[3] Meyers; Jessica, John Kerry urged to take harder line on rights issues in Burma Boston Globe 7-8-2014
[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/president-jails-brave-journalists--and-burma-heads-back-to-the-bad-old-days-9655212.html
[5] Popham;Peter, President jails brave journalists and Burma heads back to the bad old days The Independent8-8-2-14
[6] Popham;Peter, President jails brave journalists and Burma heads back to the bad old days The Independent8-8-2-14
[7] Petition to amend constitution attracts 5 million signatures Mizzima News 7-8-2014
[8] John Kerry and the twist in Myanmar policy Eleven media 8- 8- 2014

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