Posts Tagged ‘Burma’

P.C. Roberts: The Stench of American Hypocrisy

November 19, 2010

By Paul Criag Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov 18, 2010

Ten years of rule by the Bush and Obama regimes have seen the collapse of the rule of law in the United States. Is the American media covering this ominous and extraordinary story?  No, the American media is preoccupied with the rule of law in Burma (Myanmar).

The military regime that rules Burma just released from house arrest the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The American media used the occasion of her release to get on Burma’s case for the absence of the rule of law. I’m all for the brave lady, but if truth be known, “freedom and democracy” America needs her far worse than does Burma.

I’m not an expert on Burma, but the way I see it, the objection to a military government is that the government is not accountable to law.  Instead, such a regime behaves as it sees fit and issues edicts that advance its agenda.  Burma’s government can be criticized for not having a rule of law, but it cannot be criticized for ignoring its own laws. We might not like what the Burmese government does, but, precisely speaking, it is not behaving illegally.

In contrast, the United States government claims to be a government of laws, not of men, but when the executive branch violates the laws that constrain it, those responsible are not held accountable for their criminal actions.  As accountability is the essence of the rule of law, the absence of accountability means the absence of the rule of law.

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Aung San Suu Kyi’s desperate plea to the world

June 18, 2010

By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent, The Independent/UK, June 18, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi's lakeside house in Rangoon where a fence was  erected last year

Aung San Suu Kyi’s lakeside house in Rangoon where a fence was erected last year

As Aung San Suu Kyi prepares to celebrate her 65th birthday tomorrow, confined in the house in which she has spent most of the past two decades, a confidante of the Burmese opposition leader has made a simple but passionate appeal to those in the West to use their freedom to help his country achieve the same.

In a hand-written letter smuggled out of Burma and passed to The Independent, U Win Tin writes: “I want to repeat and echo her own words – ‘please use your liberty to promote ours’. I want to add more to it. Please bring more and more liberty to us, to our country, Burma. We are starving for it and we are waiting for someone or some institutions or some countries to bring it to us.”

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Radical Historian George Barnsby 1919–2010

April 13, 2010

By Nasir Khan

Dr George Barnsby

Dr George Barnsby, who died on April 11 at the age of 91 in Wolverhampton, was a leading radical activist and historian of the working class movement in the Black Country. Born in London in a working class family, his father died when he was only three years old. Now his mother had the sole responsibility to take care of her two infant sons in dire circumstances. The vicissitudes of his early life made George aware that the ‘station in life’ of many people was determined by their social and economic status. He certainly was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

He left school at 15 and did some ordinary jobs. He showed little interest in politics at that time. However, around the age of eighteen he became a reader of Daily Worker. It was the period when Nazism had emerged as the dominant voice of militarism and in many countries in Europe and the United States fascist parties emerged. Their model was the German Nazi party and their hero Adolf Hitler. When the Second World War started the young George was called up in 1939. At that time, he was 20 years old. When he went to fight for his ‘king and country’ his worldly possessions were two suits and a bicycle. He recalls in his ‘Subversive – One Third of the Autobiography of a Communist’ that for obvious reasons some people had more interest in ‘our country’ than he did!

He was sent to Burma. He experienced there inhumanity of the war and destruction caused by the Japanese. His contact with India and Indians subject to the imperial Raj gave him a broad political insight and awareness of the role of colonialism and imperialism. The Bengal Famine of 1943-44 occurred under the British rule. It is estimated that around 3 million Indians died from starvation and malnutrition. The Bengal government reacted to the disaster with little efficiency, and refused to stop the flow of rice from Bengal. George was an eye-witness to the apathy of the British rulers towards their subjects. There was no shortage of food in the British quarters either. There are still some hard questions about the role and knowledge of the British Prime Minster Winston Churchill into the affair. For instance, when the Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery, and Lord Wavell requested him an urgent release of food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram to Wavell asking, if food was so scarce, ‘why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.’

The end of the Second World War saw the defeat of fascism and militarism in Germany and Japan. But no such harm came to the Spanish fascism under Franco. The Soviet Union and its Red Army in the Great Patriotic War had borne the brunt of the war on the Eastern Front. With the Allied victory, the army conscripts returned to their homes. In 1946, George was demobbed, receiving a gratuity of about £100. This sum he used to get further education. First, he matriculated from Regent Street Polytechnic before he went to the London School of Economics where he obtained a B.Sc. Honours degree there. From Birmingham University he gained an M.A. degree by writing ‘Social Conditions in the Black Country’ and then from the same university he earned a Ph.D. degree on his thesis ‘Working Class Movement in the Black Country 1750 to 1868′. His studies and committment to revolutionary Socialism that wanted to serve the interests of the working class had taken the central stage in his life. He was to struggle for these objectives for the rest of his life.

When he came to Wolverhampton in 1954, he became the secretary of the local Communist Party. This was the period when the Cold war was in full swing and in the United States anti-Communist crusade of McCarthyism had become the new credo of the Cold War allies in the West. In Britain, Communists were looked upon as traitors; they were spied upon and their telephones tapped. Obviously, George like other Communists was also regarded as subversive and he had to confront what came his way.

The range of his social, academic and political activities in the Black Country extends over vast areas. He wrote a number of histories and pamphlets on Socialism, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Housing and the Radicals in the Black Country.

One major area of communal activity was around Bilston College of Further Education. Some teachers of the College and governors realised that many working-class people were excluded from formal institutional education who formed unqualified work force with little basic skills. Among the excluded were a disproportionate number of people from ethnic minority communities, mainly Afro-Caribbean and Asian. George was an active educator and a leading voice in the new approach to uplifting the working class people and providing them with education that met their needs. This progressive approach in a multicultural and multi-ethnic society was to counterbalance the legacy of Enoch Powell and his followers.

When American President George W. Bush and his close ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair, started their genocidal war of aggression against Iraq and the subsequent destruction of Iraq and Iraqis, George steadfastly opposed the imperial war. For him, the Anglo-American war in Iraq was a crime against humanity, a genocide, and its central figures the war criminals who need to be brought to justice. He focused on Bush and Blair and their allies, writing extensively on their policies on his website and informed the populace of the realities of the cover-up of their crimes and their incessant lies.

George Barnsby is survived by his wife Esme and two sons, William and Robert.

Burma: Release Political Prisoners Before Election

October 23, 2009

Scoop, Friday, 23 October 2009, 10:28 am
Press Release: United Nations

Myanmar: UN Expert Urges Release Of All Political Prisoners Before Elections

New York, Oct 22 2009 5:10PM An independent United Nations expert has called on Myanmar’s Government to release all political prisoners before the national elections planned for 2010 so that the polls can be as inclusive as possible.

“I told the Government that these elections should be fair and transparent, that freedom of speech, movement and association should be guaranteed in the country, and of course that all prisoners of conscience should be released before those elections,” Tomás Ojea Quintana told a news conference in New York.

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Burma: End Repression of Buddhist Monks

September 22, 2009
Intimidation Intensifies Ahead of Second Anniversary of Crackdown
Human Rights Watch, September 21, 2009
Downloadable Resources:

The stories told by monks are sad and disturbing, but they exemplify the behavior of Burma’s military government as it clings to power through violence, fear, and repression. The monks retain a great deal of moral authority, making principled stands by monks very dangerous for a government that doesn’t.

Brad Adams, Asia director

(Bangkok) – Buddhist monks in Burma face continuing repression, intimidation and harsh prison sentences two years after the military government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrations, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

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Aung San Suu Kyi stands for her people and democracy

August 16, 2009

A single slender woman who terrifies an army of generals

By Badri Raina, ZNet, Aug 16, 2009

Badri Raina’s ZSpace Page

In Burma resides a dame,
Terra Firma is her name;
They lock her indoors,
But her pitying smile soars,
And the Generals are rendered lame.

Thomas Carlyle, that prophetic voice of the 19C, delineated in Heroes And Hero Worship (1841) what he thought were types of world-historical individuals.

Among them he projected Cromwell as a type of hero whose strength lay in a species of obdurate conviction that had no need of any flamboyant oratorical skills.

Two other figures from the 20C/21C spring to mind as further exemplars of the type, namely, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Aung San Suu Kyi.

No more true metaphor for them than the grass, which Whitman called the “handkerchief of the Lord,” fusing in a magnificently visionary way god with democracy.

The grass, it grows everywhere, however you trample on it. In its fecund unendingness, it symbolizes and manifests the will-to-life itself, and in its undefeatably cussed humility, it is the spirit of universal freedom and common democracy that refuse to be quelled.

And, as any good gardener knows, the more you cut the more it grows.

Which may be why the sensible British did not heed Hitler’s counsel in 1938: When Chamberlain went to reason with him, he mentioned Gandhi and how troubled the empire was by him.

Uncomprehending, the Fuhrer asked, “why don’t you shoot him?”

And had they done so, nothing might have brought about so early a collapse of the empire—and in predictably brutal ways.

Clearly, the two-penny tyrants in Burma who strut about in a prison of their own making—if Suu Kyi cannot leave her house, the Generals may not leave Burma, for they are reviled everywhere, including in those parts of the world who have shabby deals with them—have understood that much.

Thus, for their own wretched safety, they desist from doing that Hitler on her. So, we ask, are they winning or losing Burma? Losing, we think. And over that knowledge, Suu Kyi’s smile arches like that of angels, seeing far far beyond the events of any single day, beyond even her own life.

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Burma’s nervous dictators try to quell the threat of Aung San Suu Kyi

August 11, 2009

Critics view the opposition leader’s trial as a brazen attempt to exclude her from next year’s multiparty elections

The detained Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Photograph: Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/EPAThe detained Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Photograph: Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/EPA

Amid the secrecy, delays and legal squabbling of recent weeks, there has been one constant in the fate of Aung San Suu Kyi: that her arrest for allegedly breaking the terms of her house arrest is a brazen attempt by Burma’s military rulers to exclude the country’s opposition leader from the political process.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was sentences to 18 months in detention today, celebrated her 64th birthday in Rangoon’s Insein prison in June, sharing curry and chocolate cake with her guards, was arrested in May after John Yettaw, an eccentric American well-wisher, sneaked into her compound and stayed for two nights without official permission.

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Protests marking Suu Kyi birthday

June 19, 2009

BBCNews, June 19, 2009

Image of Aung San Suu Kyi on European Parliament"s building at Place du Luxembourg, 18/06

The European Union is taking part in the campaign to free Ms Suu Kyi

Activists across the world are marking the 64th birthday of Burma’s detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, with vigils and protests.

Celebrities including author Salman Rushdie and actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts have signed an online petition demanding that she be freed.

The European Union has also renewed its calls for her “unconditional release”.

Burma’s military rulers have held the Nobel Peace Prize winner under house arrest for most of the past 19 years.

She is currently on trial for breaking the terms of her detention.

Aung San Suu Kyi was charged after an American man swam to the house where she is being held, and stayed there overnight.

Insein jail

Observers say the charges – which carry a maximum punishment of five years in jail – are designed to keep Ms Suu Kyi imprisoned until after a general election which the junta has scheduled for next year.

While she is on trial, Ms Suu Kyi is imprisoned in Rangoon’s Insein jail – a notorious facility where many political prisoners are held.

Protesters in at least 20 cities – from Geneva to Kuala Lumpur – are marking her birthday with calls for her to be set free.

The BBC’s Jonathan Head, in Bangkok, says one of the most poignant events was the small celebration at the Rangoon headquarters of her political party, the National League for Democracy.

Her supporters there released balloons and small birds, and made offerings of food to Buddhist monks in her honour.

Burmese exile groups have launched a website called “64 for Suu” and invited celebrities, politicians and members of the public to send a 64-word birthday message to Ms Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s supporters in Manila made a birthday cake and and spelled out the words “not guilty” with hundreds of red roses

In his message, British tycoon Richard Branson called her a “shining light for us all”.

Another message came from a group of female Nobel Peace Prize laureates including Guatemalan rights activist Rigoberta Menchu and US anti-landmine campaigner Jody Williams.

They said: “Your imprisonment and trial are a stark illustration of the brutality and lawlessness of the Burmese military regime.”

European Union leaders also joined the chorus of celebrities, activists and political leaders calling for Ms Suu Kyi’s release.

“Unless she is released, the credibility of the 2010 elections will be further undermined and the EU will respond with appropriate measures,” a European Council draft statement said.

Ms Suu Kyi has been under house arrest and banned from seeing all but a small group of people for 13 of the past 19 years.

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