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    » 01/10/2009, 00.00

    MYANMAR

    Failure of international community before drama of Burmese people



    Pascal Khoo Thwe, a Burmese dissident, adds up the balance of a tragic 2008: Nargis and the military dictatorship have pushed the population to the breaking point. The junta has deliberately allowed people to die in order to confiscate their land. He stresses that the struggle for democracy must begin with the people.

    Yangon (AsiaNews) - For most Burmese, 2008 will be remembered for "an apocalypse by the name of Cyclone Nargis" that devastated the country, "and the year the international community headed by the United Nations thoroughly failed" in the face of the emergency and the drama of the refugees, incapable of touching the power of a military dictatorship that "represses any voice contrary to the regime" in blood. The charge comes from Pascal Khoo Thwe, a Burmese activist of Padaung ethnicity, exiled in London, in an editorial published on the website of the dissident newspaper Democratic Voice of Burma.

    He recalls how last May, the world was "waiting for the arrival of the biggest Olympic Games ever to be held" in China, and too preoccupied "not to do anything which could upset the striding dragon that is China" to think of the tragedy afflicting Myanmar. The situation was intensified by the neglect of the ruling junta, which did not take into consideration the alarm raised by a meteorological center in India, considering Nargis on the level of a simple tropical storm.

    "The more people the storm killed," Pascal Khoo Thwe writes, "the better for the generals as no one could blame them for it and they could seize the prime lands of the people who perished." Many of the victims were of Karen ethnicity, a minority that the government has repeatedly tried to eradicate by force from the region.

    He does not spare criticism of foreign governments, which "'urged', 'denounced', 'condemned' and 'demanded'," but did nothing concrete to change the situation and help the Burmese people. At the same time, he blasts the UN policy of "wait and see," while "hundreds of people were dying day by day."

    The repression imposed by the military rulers also impacts those - few, in reality - who have promoted personal initiatives to help the populations and areas ravaged by the passage of the cyclone: Pascal Khoo Thwe cites the example of the most famous Burmese actor, Zarganar, who was "stopped, assaulted, and intimidated by agents of the junta," and finally "arrested and imprisoned for his efforts." He also tells about a farmer - the only survivor in his family - who, a few weeks after the catastrophe, reprimanded a volunteer with a foreign NGO, telling him: "Thanks for nothing and for coming too late. Keep on helping tyranny." "The farmer disappeared without a trace and nobody knows what happened to him." He also recalls those who "have courageously fought against the dictatorship for years, like Win Tin," a leading representative of the opposition party National League for Democracy, who seem to have "wasted their energy" without the international community providing them "any concrete help" or ceasing "to support the generals" in power.

    For the future, Pascal Khoo Thwe does not seem to be on board with the wave of optimism that has accompanied the election of U.S. president Barack Obama. It is not a matter of distrust, justified among other things by many of his predecessors who never kept their promises, but a question of political realism. "Obama has too many things on his plate to sort out as the most powerful leader on earth, such as the mess in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/Palestine and the global economic crisis, to name but a few. I would advise my countrymen that we should not pin our hopes on events abroad." He urges that "we must all stop mentally depending on foreign powers . . . and go beyond the politics of emotion." "We must stop our reliance on a magic bullet formula in politics, by really listening to the concerns of those at the grassroots level." Otherwise, there will be a repeat of the slaughter, massacres, and natural disasters on an even more devastating scale, which can be avoided only if the people are capable of facing the future "with less anxiety and emotion." "The history of Burma," he concludes, "has shown that good ideas or actions or foreign support alone are not enough to govern or rebuild a nation and maintain its soul."

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    See also

    06/11/2008 MYANMAR
    People of Burma call for democracy and religious freedom
    The end of the dictatorship in Myanmar and the thirst for God among the population: these are the two faces of a country that the military junta constantly tries to suffocate. Still today, refugees of cyclone Nargis are just barely surviving, without food or water. The work of the Catholic Church in support of the poor, amid government repression.

    07/08/2008 MYANMAR - UNITED STATES
    Myanmar, Laura Bush visits Nargis refugees and calls for sanctions against military junta
    Tomorrow, the country recalls the massacre in August of 1988, when the military junta slaughtered 3,000 people asking for democracy and human rights. The U.S. first lady asks various countries, including China, to support the United States in sanctions against the ruling dictatorship.

    09/08/2008 MYANMAR - ASIA
    Asia recalls the repression of 8-8-'88 in Myanmar
    In Myanmar, thousands of soldiers in the streets and in front of the Buddhist monasteries, out of fear of a population weakened by decades of repression and hunger. Protests in Bangkok and Manila. The solidarity of Colombo.

    22/10/2008 MYANMAR
    Burmese dissident Zarganar honored for pro-democracy struggle
    The activist has received a highly sought-after recognition from the Canadian section of PEN International, an association that works for freedom of the press. The International Women’s Media Foundation, meanwhile, is honoring a Burmese journalist who for twenty years has been denouncing the misdeeds of the reigning junta.

    24/09/2008 MYANMAR
    "Superficial" concessions from Burmese junta to appease UN
    Yesterday, the military junta released Win Tin, a dissident journalist imprisoned for more than 20 years. 9,002 prisoners were freed, but only seven of those imprisoned for thought crimes. Censorship remains in place for the internet and international telephone calls.



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