If Pado Mahn Shar were still alive, the formation of KNU peace delegations and political stances would be different. Even though individual ceasefire talks had been arranged, the ethnics’ political bargaining position would still be the same. What is going on with the KNU leadership at this present time is that some groups or individuals, who have strong personal business interests behind the scenes, are providing clever advice for the sake of their own interests. Seems like the present KNU leaders will let legal Karen political parties in Karen State represent the Karen people’s interests, while the KNU leadership take care of a big chunk of money with different projects. They are talking about getting legal status, but in reality they are no longer interested as long as they share business opportunities with the regime. The KNU leadership and individuals who just jumped onto the KNU trip to Yangon will pay more attention to those business investments, even though they try to sound like they are standing for all the Karen people. Wake up Karen people!
—Nant Shar Pong
Wow! It takes so little for the EU to be fooled. Maybe the EU was a willing fool anyway, waiting for any opportunity to do business however small the changes may be. It took thousands of people killed by the Burmese military in the 88 uprising, thousands of people being put in prisons for many years, thousands of our ethnic brothers and sisters were killed, raped, and tortured over many decades, and a big slap in the faces of the people who expressed their real aspirations in the 1990 elections to persuade the EU and the West to put sanctions in place. But it took only a by-election in which the military allowed an ex-general, Thein Sein, to give away 43 seats, a tiny minority in the parliament, and a few reversible cosmetic changes to scrape these sanctions.
To begin with, sanctions against Burma have been blanket sanctions, not targeted sanctions. But in any case, the question is not who is responsible for the plight of the Burmese people—it is how to most effectively address this problem. Sanctions are a popular tool for states seeking to satisfy domestic public opinion, particularly when there are not very strong trade links with the target country, and therefore not very large economic costs to bear. They are very rarely effective, and they have certainly not been successful in this case: Burma has endured two decades of isolation from the (Western) international community as a result. If we assume, as you purport (and I am not at all sure of this), that these reforms are totally empty, then it is very clear that sanctions have manifestly not achieved their goal. Fortunately for Burmese people however, authoritarian regimes are significantly more complex internally than they are understood by most outsiders to be. This means that if a reformist faction gains a degree of power within the government and institutes policies which are successful and widely seen as beneficial to Burma by both the military and civilians, further reform may be on the way. Of course, these reforms are far from irreversible and it is very easy to imagine their repeal if the military understands itself to be threatened.
I dislike both carrots and sticks. Are Burmese people all supposed to be dumb donkeys?
The cheapest commodity in China is human beings, and the merciless communist regime in China is ready to forsake Myanmar peoples’ lives, as well as the lives of animal inhabitants, to build dams to fulfill their energy needs, regardless of ecological and environmental disasters. But the present military-led government is equally responsible to rescue our country from cruel destruction as they are always saying in a loud manner about the internal and external enemies of Myanmar.
I agree that you cannot completely dismiss the fact that she [Aung San Suu Kyi] can’t possibly win them over. I do hope she does, but the chances are so slim you cannot help but despair. She certainly has learnt a lot, and is going about it admirably, very cautiously and tactfully. Will she deliver against such odds, and if she does, would the regime honor it at its own expense? My money is on winning over the army both within and outside the debating chambers gainfully and efficaciously using this window of opportunity. That would show us her true mettle, and I sincerely hope she won’t disappoint for the sake of all the long-suffering peoples of Burma.
As Burma opens its doors to hungry investors, it is absolutely critical that the integrity of media coverage be reserved as a separate category of investment. Whereas other venture capital projects thrive in a lugubrious environment of palms greased, handshakes and signed deals, journalism does not. Perhaps it is important to make the distinction here between media, as that which overruns American TV, and journalism. There is too much at stake in the damaged country of Burma to make media coverage a reality show spectacle of the lives of its people. Two generations of its education system have been decimated, the dignity of families has been compromised in order to put food on the table, and a mentality of fear and oppression have seeped into a country once premised on the values of Buddhism. Journalism is at its best when it is a squeaky wheel: the wheel of a bullock cart that bears the weight of its people and treads the uneven soil of its land. This is best done, I concur, with one foot in and one foot out, straddling two worlds for the sake of equanimity and integrity. It is uncomfortable, but it is our reality.
—Paula Tin Nyo
Going too fast for other purposes than genuine progress of the citizens and the environment of Myanmar could cause more serious and nation-breaking troubles than good. Right now what we are seeing is an increasing amount of imports of those elements that are not basic life necessities, even when a substantial part of the country is lacking these basic needs. While there are huge differences between Myanmar and other developed countries we cannot afford to copy a lot of those that are happening on the basis of ‘progressive desire’ and ‘trend-following desires’. We need education: education on health, physical and mental health, skills and technology to produce basic life-supporting needs such as food and building construction and conservation of clean and healthy environment—and to make our society an active, happy and educated culture.