Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Burma's march for freedom continues

Following a dawn-till-dusk curfew yesterday, Burmese protesters braved bullets, tear gas, and police force as they continued their push for democracy today. 10,000 people — many of them monks — demonstrated that they aren't going to stop what looks to be the largest uprising in nearly two decades (see previous post).

As the international community gets more and more concerned and unsure, China, one of Burma's only allies, remains silent. America is urging China to talk some sense into the illegitimate, despotic government of Burma, also known as Myanmar. The UN is leading the campaign for talks on the issue, and has already sent an envoy to Burma — although it is not known whether he will be allowed into the nation.

Why are we so unsure about what will happen next in Burma? The military junta rules the country in secrecy; few know its workings and even fewer know its plans. These protests could result in positive change — but what will probably come out of them is either a brutal crackdown like the one in 1988 where thousands were killed, or a less extreme but still hostile response from the government. I doubt they would move to the negotiating table.

As far as international pressure goes, Russia and China are still insisting the events in Burma are internal matters. Interesting how two nations who intervene and meddle so much in other nation's affairs — mostly for their profit and often resulting in disastrous consequences — would be against using diplomatic force against the regime in Burma. I can understand the impulse some have against intervention, I often share those views, but not only would upholding human rights diplomatically not be a rash measure that disrespects national sovereignty; in today's globalized and interdependent world — where one collapsed state in one far region of the globe can affect the affairs of a nation a hemisphere away — nations need to insure that their neighbors don't collapse... for their own good! That is why we finally saw China move forward with North Korea. If they were too extreme in their punishment of their 'friend', there could be collapse; but if they let the regime go mad with nukes and provoke some of the world's largest powers, instability could also be imminent.

Self-interest aside, it is important to at least acknowledge the human rights struggle in Burma. China and Russia, two veto-welding members of the UN Security Council, are wreaking of hypocrisy, as we have also seen on the Iran issue and a medley of other geopolitical matters. The need for stability, but also human rights and political legitimacy, should be rallying cries for those who call for change in Burma, and the need for states like China to push for change. Perhaps if Russia and China were more democratic and free, their people could force their governments to not be so stubborn. Alas, the freedom of one nation's people can so easily affect the freedom of another's.

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