27 September, 2007

Burma, Democracy and corruption

Many of us around the world find the actions of courageous non-violent Burmese people inspiring and impressive. We hope they will not be detained, tortured or killed by the military junta that rules Myanmar. We complete petitions and write to our politicians urging that something be done to end this tragedy. We do not know what will actually make a difference, as sanctions and boycotts have had no effect, except that these usually lead to suffering for the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Clicking below will add your name to this petition to Chinese Premier Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council: "We stand alongside the citizens of Burma in their peaceful protests. We urge you to oppose a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, and to support genuine reconciliation and democracy in Burma. We pledge to hold you accountable for any further bloodshed." http://www.avaaz.org/en/stand_with_burma/f.php?cl=20213140&signup=1

Click Here to Sign Now!

Some of us are astonished (not really) when we hear the champions of Democracy like US President, George W Bush and Australian Prime Minister, John Howard expressing their concern for the Burmese people. Why do they consistently undermine democracy in their own countries and support the undermining of democracy in other countries? Why do these leaders invade other sovereign states, plot covert assassinations of political leaders and coup d'états?

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer’s statement on Burma: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/09/25/2042309.htm

In part, Mr Downer said”, I think there's a risk that they [the military Government] will move against the leaders," he told the program from the sidelines of a UN conference on climate change in New York. "They'll arrest the leaders and subject them to very harsh treatment. That would be my concern. "I think it's unlikely that they will, you know, send the tanks into the streets, that sort of response. But we'll have to wait and see."

Mr Downer said he was "very concerned" about the situation in the country. But this same man supports the suppression of other peoples around the world where it suits Australian foreign policy, which is routinely conducted in secret.

In fact the leading ‘Democracies’ are quite comfortable dealing with military juntas and puppet dictatorships and regularly support their repressive policies with supplies of weapons, equipment and training. The French oil company TOTAL is a major investor in Myanmar and its payments to the regime underpin the repression of the Burmese. Britain is a major investor, possibly the second biggest, and supplies armoured vehicles and other military equipment to the junta. But lets not forget that China is the junta’s most powerful friend – and unlikely to lift a finger to save a single life.

Transparency International has this to say:

Transparency International Chairwoman Huguette Labelle, in a speech presenting the Berlin-based organization's annual Corruption Perceptions Index, which found Myanmar (Burma) and Somalia to be the most corrupt nations. Transparency International said many countries ranked among the cleanest are facilitating bribery and plunder in the impoverished nations at the bottom of the list”.

"The junta which runs Myanmar is clearly one which is able to do very secret deals with international companies, and particularly in illegal logging,'' Laurence Cockcroft, a director for Transparency in the U.K., said in an interview with Bloomberg news agency.

If citizens of Australia think they should boycott the loathsome military regime in Myanmar they should be aware that the Howard government is quietly making this kind of citizen activity illegal:

Govt looks at fines for boycott campaigns, protests


So, the first lesson for democracy and human rights is that we must be consistent. Tibet? Palestine? Many more struggles lie ahead.

The same arguments being advanced today in support of democracy could have been advanced in relation to the protests against the APEC Conference, the presence of known war criminals and the futile outcomes of this denial of free speech.

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