Saturday, 13 October 2007

Let's try to be clever

There was an interesting discussion on another blog, Someone argued that the struggle of influence among Nations for oil and energy resources, "quite inevitably" leads to a dictature in the oil-rich but less-educated countries in favour of the more industrialised and powerful ones. In the case of interest to us, he argued that it is the interest of India and China, the two largest clients of the burmese oil and gaz, to maintain a stupid dictature in Burma so to have easier deals and cheaper bargains.

I agree almost 98% with him (I reserve the missing 2% just for being myself - kidding). Indeed there are many examples even in other continents : Africa, Latin America.... and many companies playing that game (armements, oil, diamonds...). However not all the countries rich in resources are under a dictature. For example Canada is the 7th world oil producer and it seems to be a democracy. Kuwait with its 3 M inhabitants and oil resources is prosperous while Congo-Brazzaville has the same 3 M population and oil resources but the people are living in very poor conditions. Brazil and Nigeria have the same oil production but the former seems today in a much better position than the latter.

Do you agree on these examples ? Have you other constrasting cases ? Maybe by analysing the larger picture we can understand why in some countries the struggle for oil brings to dictature and in others not.

I have found an interesting analysis (Ferraro, 2003) of the perpetual dichotomy between national realism (making money for self without respect for the others) and idealism (non-negotiable demands of human dignity such as speech freedom, equal justice, etc.) which concludes like this :

"The clearest example of a certain continuity between realism and idealism was the Marshall Plan in 1947. The US granted a considerable amount of money to rebuild the European economy after World War II. That the US had a strong self-interest in doing so is incontestable-the US needed a vibrant European economy for its own economic self-interest. Moreover, the US also believed that European recovery was the best defense against possible Soviet expansion into Western Europe. At the same time, however, the people of Western Europe benefited from the policy. It is not impossible to satisfy the national interest while simultaneously satisfying the interests of others."

Can China and the other regional superpowers understand that ?

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

How long ?

I was trying to get some more images of the prisons in present Myanmar, and fell over a research paper from the Burma Ethnic Research Group, funded by the German liberal Friedrich Naumann Foundation, entitled "Internal displacement in Myanmar". It is not my aim to re-do a literature survey, but what struck me was the literature citations, that is a further (but do we need more?) example that the situation in the country is critical and the present government has shown is evil nature since so many years. What the world and the "big powers", the so called " modern democracies", would use as justification for NOT DOING NOTHING, for so long ?

- Forgotten Victims of a Hidden War: Internally Displaced Karen in Burma. BERG/ Friedrich Naumann Foundation. April 1998. Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Uprooting the Shan: Shan Human Rights Foundation. December 1996. Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Dispossessed: Forced relocation and extrajudicial killings in Shan state: Shan Human Rights Foundation. April 1998. Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Total Denial: EarthRights International. July 1996. Bangkok, Thailand
- Burma: Insurgency and the politics of ethnicity. Martin Smith. 1991. Zed Books, London, UK
- Abuses against peasant farmers in Burma. Mon Information Service. July 1998. Bangkok
- All Quiet on the Western Front? Images Asia / Karen Human Rights Group / Open Society Institute. January 1998. Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Internally Displaced People: A Global Survey. Global IDP Survey 1998
- Ethnic Groups in Burma: Development, Democracy and Human Rights. Martin Smith 1994 Anti-Slavery International
- Burma Beyond the Law. Article 19. International Center against Censorship. August 1996

There is a well organised open-access library at the Burma Library website. You will find a lot of interesting links and documents. An example of what you can find in the United Nation System link, is the full text of the "Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro", February 2007 (six months updates from 2003 also available). Some sentences :

"The persecution of members of the opposition and human rights defenders shows that the road map for democracy faces too many obstacles to bring about a genuine transition. In the past, ...the UN has acknowledged that the road map could play a positive role in the political transition. Sadly, the positive momentum of the early years has apparently stalled."

"The Special Rapporteur remains particularly concerned about impunity, which has become systematic... Several groups responsible for committing serious violations of human rights, in particular members of the military, have not been prosecuted. There is also little evidence that these serious crimes have been investigated by relevant authorities."

"Grave human rights violations are committed by persons within the established structures of the Council and are not only perpetrated with impunity but authorized by law. In that respect, the Special Rapporteur is also very concerned about the continued misuse of the legal system, which denies the rule of law and represents a major obstacle to securing the effective and meaningful exercise of fundamental freedoms by citizens."

"The Special Rapporteur has been very concerned about the 10 years of intensified military campaigns in ethnic areas of eastern Myanmar and its impact on the humanitarian and human rights situation, especially on civilians who have been targeted during the attacks. The situation should be considered in connection with the widespread practice of land confiscation throughout the country, which is seemingly aimed at anchoring military control. It has led to numerous forced evictions, relocations and resettlements, forced migration and internal displacement. Given the scale of the current military campaign, the situation may lead to a humanitarian crisis if it is not addressed immediately."

So much for the non-interference ideology of China and ASEAN, and the effectiveness of the UN given the blockade built by China. Ask for more effective action to your local politicians !!!

Hits from Vatican Holy See

In a reaction to a former post (Silent Burma, below), my blog got two hits by the Vatican's "Holy See" (yes their IP is displayed like this, Holy See). In fact I wrote to them as I was quite angry that religious people can not be more solidary among them apart from few words of condemnation, without effect, even when the life of hundreds or thousands of their like were in grave danger. I wrote to a number of high ranking Cardinals and Bishops in the Vatican, recovering their E-mails here and there, most of them directly on the Vatican website.

So at least for once the "Holy See" showed that they can follow up sollicitations, keep informed about news and also read opinions like the one on this blog. This means that keeping ourselves "restless", writing around, signing petitions and so on, is not useless. Thus, please keep writing to anyone you think can mobilise some opinions in the world. It just up to your fantasy to imagine who can help.

Apart from politicians and other immediate analogues with (putative) high influence, the market niche also hosts a number of companies that may pick up a provocation or a global meaningful message. In a world where money is god, maybe this is an effective way forward.

I remain also looking forward a stronger reaction from the "Holy See".

News : I have received a written answer from the Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome and president of the Italian Episcopal Conference of Pope Benedict XVI. Here is his text : "I am answering to your last of Saturday to share with you the need of our efforts on behalf of the Buddhist monks in Burma. We have already expressed ourselves repeatedly in the newspaper "Avvenire" and will continue to do so. Have Best regards with great warmth".

I have checked on the Avvenire online, there is a small article at the bottom of the international page, essentially copying what is already said in the other laic newspapers. Nothing else significant even doing a research on key-words. Quite light the answer from this conservative, confirming that Burma people needs our help, given that the powerfuls are too confortable in their chairs.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Police beating protesters

Direct link to a video on CNN showing protesters wildly beaten by police. The junta can not lie forever.