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A Burmese Perspective: UBA In Bipolar World – OpEd

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I presume that every body will be horrified at the prospect of a 3rd World War where the battles will be fought not only by men but also by robots on the land, sea and in air but also in space, and may be on other planets also, as the opponents by that time, may have the technology and the resources to do so. All these horrifying episodes will be due to the psyche and the rationale of our homo sapiens because it has developed differently, as one school of thought believes in liberal democracy where the will of the people prevails and the other is authoritarian countries with their totalitarian regimes which like to construe that their group or the party knows best, what is good for the country and people. 

With the current situation and scenes on the television screen, it seems to me that “Every terrorist and dictatorial country around the world will be cheering in Syria, Yemen, Africa, Asia as the Taliban defeated America somewhat similar to that of Saigon scene (30th April 1975) where the Viet Cong routed the GIs. I am very sad to predict that there will be several 9/11s only because the people, who are at the helm of the US policy fail to comprehend the nature of extremists and anti-democratic forces. But the one thing which I am very certain about is that opium production will sky-rocket in Burma because the Taliban has promised to eliminate the production of narcotics in Afghanistan. If the Taliban fulfills its promise, the Burmese Junta which has a tradition of working hands in glove with the Opium Warlords who all now are  Gentlemen of Rangoon. What is more, the Burmese Junta can even introduce their Gentlemen to the international community as respectable business leaders; e.g. Steven Law, the Director of the Asia World Company (son of the opium Warlord Law Hse Han) was warmly welcome in Canada while at the same time refusing a visa to a Burmese human rights activist. Hence U (United States), B (Burma) and A (Afghanistan) are somewhat related.

Now, President Joe Biden’s plan for an orderly withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan is no longer a reality. The US administration instead has been forced to make an ardent request to the Taliban not to hinder their withdrawal, showing to the world that the America, the one-time Arsenal of Democracy, if not the most powerful country in the world is kowtowing to the Taliban. It does not augur well with the freedom loving people of the world, especially the Burmese. But most importantly, it shatters the dreams and hopes of the freedom loving people of the world, especially the people of Burma, who are up against nearly half a million strong and bitterly hated Tatmadaw (Burmese military), which is fully equipped with the arms and ammunition of the two authoritarian countries of China and Russia. The totalitarian Tatmadaw has been brutally suppressing the 54 million, downtrodden but brave and dedicated democracy-loving people, who are putting up resistance with their home-made primitive weapons, is a most deplorable disaster.

As a living Burmese historian (the name which  the late Joseph Harry Silverstein honored me with), I can clearly recollect the august words of President John Kennedy’s inaugural speech on 20th Jan 1960: “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights…. Let every nation know that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty”. However, they sound hollow to me after witnessing the chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport. 

For me the fall of Kabul is no different to the 9/11 terror attacks as it is a sickening symmetry of horror of twenty years ago. The world watched people jumping from the burning Twin Towers. Now Zaki Anwari, a passionate soccer player who represented Afghanistan Youth Soccer team, clinging bravely to a departing plane choose his death instead of living under the Taliban, and the world knows about it. But paradoxically, the world do not know in Rangoon that on the 10th Aug, five brave Burmese youths, including a mother of a six-year-old child, jumped off the high-rise apartment, when the Burmese Junta’s security personnel raided their hideout, as they preferred to die instead of surviving under the brutal and barbaric Junta where torture and slow death waited them. 

Now, the current Burmese pro-democracy masses under the umbrella of the duly elected National Unity Government are not requesting any American Troops to come to Burma and fight for them, as they don’t want a drop of American blood to fall. What they are ardently requesting is to give them some small arms, including shoulder-fire SAMs, together with the necessary resources because it is very hard to fight the marauding Tatmadaw with their primitive home-made weapons the half-a-million brute solders of Tatmadaw and generals, who have been exploiting the country’s natural and human resources, and enslaving the people for more than half a century since 1962, to be exact. 

They simply could not comprehend why their beloved Uncle Sam is so deaf to their appeals. Is it because unlike the previous Democratic Administrations the Biden administration does not appoint the Asian Pacific Secretary with whom the asylum seekers like the Burmese exiles residing in the remote parts of America ccould approach and tell the real story? Pardon me if I am rude and naïve to say that after seeing the debacle in Afghanistan, “The Emperor has no clothes on,”

Human Rights Watch’s analysis of 50 video footages finds that the Burmese Junta forces have been using corpses and wounded bodies to spread fear, anxiety, and uncertainty among communities. Why is Uncle Sam and the civilized world is just watching? This kind of manipulation to terrify has been going on since the massive crackdown on pro-democracy activists in 1988 uprising. Evidently, the ongoing political and humanitarian crises have stemmed from a history of impunity to the perpetrators of violence and atrocities, starting from the 1962 military takeover to the latest one on February 1, 2021, all the atrocities committed against the ethnic nationalities. The global response was, however, never adequate, and very lately Kerry Kennedy, Chairperson of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and member of the Fortify Rights International Advisory Board said that “Experience told the Myanmar/Burmese military that they could perpetrate mass atrocities without consequences and that it is our job to prove them wrong,” But when will that be done when the pro-democracy groups have no weapons in their hands?

In Burma the marauding Tatmadaw has become a Thatmadaw (meaning in the Burmese language “is never satisfied of killing”, they have killed, and they will continue to kill). Tatmadaw troops have killed more than a thousand, since the coup d’état on February 1, not to mention those who are wounded. That is the main raison d’être of why the Tatmadaw should be replaced with a Pyidaungsu Tat (meaning Union Army) composed also of all non-Myanmar ethnic nationalities, instead of exclusively Myanmar/Burman, under a democratically elected government, and its one and only duty is to defend the country from external hostilities. The Tatmadaw’s unwritten depraved motto of, “Everything is Fair in the Pursuit of Power” must be changed. This dogma is ingrained in them by indoctrination. The Tatmadaw is designed to win wars and not to win the hearts and minds of the people or peace. Hence to establish peace, the vehemently hated Tatmadaw must be annihilated. Then and only then the Union of Burma will be saved or otherwise it will be balkanized as a failed state.

Afghanistan

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in less than a month, the US and its NATO allies launched an offensive against the Taliban, believing that the regime was harboring al Qaeda. The United States was looking for Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda leader and mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, believed to be hiding in Afghanistan and under the protection of the Taliban, but he was found in Pakistan. Between 2001 and 2014, the US and NATO allies fought the Taliban. But pressure to end the long-running and increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan with Americans grew until President Donald Trump began a dialogue with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar in 2020, in which he pledged to withdraw the last US troops no later than May 1st in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan will not be used as a base for terrorist groups and that the US troops would not be attacked during the withdrawal, among other points. Immediately, the Taliban began an assault on the main cities of the country, which they took with almost no resistance from the Afghan army, and on the 15th of August, President Ahsraf Ghani was leaving the country.

Twenty years after arriving in Afghanistan, 2,442 Americans have died, and another 1,144 from different NATO countries, plus 3,846 military contractors have died, while the US has come under scrutiny for its hasty and chaotic withdrawal. The Taliban’s offer of ‘amnesty,’ ‘restraint’ and ‘peaceful’ handling of ‘transfer of power’ appeared to be a false rosy package. It is similar to what Burma’s General Min Aung Hlaing haspromised to do. Both, have been exposed by violence and attacks being resorted to by their ‘ranks and files’ in many places across the country.  

Afghan nationals who watched up close or from afar, the swift downfall of the Afghan government and the Taliban’s return to power on Aug. 15, fear life under the Islamic fundamentalist group, which is known for the enforcement of strict Islamic law and repressive policies toward women and girls. They are deeply concerned about the generations of Afghans who know nothing but war. Over the last two decades, while the U.S.-backed Afghan government was in power, women there made gains in education, employment, and political participation. Similar that of Burma, an Afghan woman Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. 

Now, one of my Afghan friends’ remarks, “I am deeply concerned about Afghans who will have to relinquish their educational and career achievement over the last 20 years, under the oppression of a twisted, misogynist, authoritarian, fundamentalist Islamic regime that insults our faith, carry out public execution and humiliation of women, closings of girls’ schools, barring of women from work, increased domestic violence, and child marriages. The Taliban banned concerts, music, and wedding celebrations, and we became habituated to the explosion of bombs, rockets, and other weapons raining death all around us. The terrorists committed brutalities such as breaking into people’s homes, killing innocent people, and abusing women. There was political warring among mujahideen leaders. Eventually the Taliban movement, largely led by young ultra-conservative seminarians, took control, and established its own harsh version of Islamic law until U.S. invasion in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and the hunt in the region for Osama bin Laden.” Today, this uncertainty is fueling concerns among Afghans and international observers about what life will be like under the new Taliban takeover as they lie to pervert the very concept of truth like the Myanmar Tatmadaw.

Biden’s ruthless realism deserves to be buried on some forgotten day, not associated with the compassion, courage and selflessness shown by Americans on 9/11. The reports from Panjshir Valley, Pul-e-Hesar and, Deh-e-Salah indicate that all is not well for the Jihadi outfits in Kabul. Writing in Washington Post, Ahmad Massoud is confident that the Taliban “is not a problem for the Afghan people alone. Under Taliban control, Afghanistan will without doubt become ground zero of radical Islamist terrorism; plots against democracies will be hatched here once again.” But the prospect of China, Russia and Pakistan throwing their full weight behind the Taliban is shattering to India, Burma and ASEAN also. 

Burma

Myanmar Tatmadaw’s supporter is Ma Ba Tha, the extremist Buddhist group is in fact the Taliban of Burma. It should be recollected that the Taliban’s most spectacular act of destruction in 1996 was the blowing up the iconic Bamiyan Buddhas, two colossal sixth-century statues that had been carved into the side of a cliff in the Bamiyan Valley that prompted the Burmese Buddhist to hate the Muslims and later take vengeance on the Rohingya Muslims. Now, the Burmese Buddhist monk U Wirathu much adored by the Tatmadaw has become the Burmese bin Laden. This unholy alliance of the Tatmadaw and the extremist Buddhist is now playing havoc in the country. The following is the authentic figure.  Will Uncle SAM continuee to look askance at the pro-democratic forces? Without giving us arms and ammunition to fight the cruel junta? 

The Union of Burma must be ruled by the people of Burma themselves and not the Tatmadaw. One must also recollect that the people of Burma do not believe in the dictum of Chairman Mao that power comes out of the barrel of the gun, even though Burma and China have a common border of 2,129 km (1,323 miles). It was only Burma and Vietnam that resolutely fought the Chinese might. 

The first Burmese kingdom 1044 -1287 known as Pagan Dynasty was destroyed by the Chinese Tartars who ransacked the pagodas and monasteries, but the people also recollect that in the reign of King Hsinbyushin (1763 – 1776) the Burmese army soundly routed the Chinese invasion and forced them to make peace. Now Min Aung Hlaing is kowtowing to the current Chinese emperor Xi Jinping to maintain his power through the barrel of the gun (Dictum of Chairman Mao), with the backing of another authoritarian regime from Moscow. Now, Russian has become the second language among the Burmese generals and, of course, many a Burmese general are learning to say Ni How Mar

Lamentably, the Chinese ccommunists troops, under the guise of Burma Communist Party, endeavoured to oust the Burmese army from the frontier of Kunglong border town to dominate the Kunglong bridge that crosses the Salween. Many Burmese sons of the soil, who had made the supreme sacrifices are now crying silently to General Min Aung Hlaing, who has become power maniac and has made himself as the Prime Minister and secretly paying homage to the two authoritarian leaders of Russia and China. Obviously, China and Russa will address him as “Your Excellency General Min Aung Hlang.” 

Unites States of America

Vice President Kamala Harris in her tour to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian) countries hinted that “the United States remains deeply alarmed by the military coup in Burma and condemned the campaign of violent repression as the “US is committed to supporting the people there as they work to return their nation to the path of democracy,” she said. But it is a fact that more than six months have passed, and the junta is still determined to rule the country, while it faces nationwide popular opposition ranging from flash-mob protests to deadly armed resistance, both in urban and rural areas almost every day. The US has also engaged with Burma’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG), which was formed by elected lawmakers of the ousted National League for Democracy government and their ethnic allies. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman spoke with Daw Zin Mar Aung, the NUG’s foreign minister, making the first official contact between a senior US official and Burma’s parallel government. But we fear as the defeat of the Red Army in Afghanistan in 1989 helped bring down the Soviet Union and the US defeat at the hands of the Taliban might force the Americans to leave Burma to its own fate as a new era of great-power competition between the U.S. Russia, and China, which we conjecture is one of the reasons why Biden insisted on withdrawing from Afghanistan to focus on bigger geopolitical threats. No doubt Moscow and Beijing are clearly enjoying Washington’s troubles. While U.S. Marines were evacuating the last diplomats from America’s fortified embassy complex in central Kabul, the Russian mission put out a statement saying it was still open, with most of their diplomats staying put. And China’s foreign ministry said it was ready for “friendly relations” with the Taliban. 

The American Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield announced that Washington would provide more than US $50 million in critical humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar, including those forced to flee violence and persecution, but it seems that the Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s advice to ASEAN counterparts to take joint action to urge the Burmese military to end the violence falls on deaf ears, as NUG’s deputy foreign minister said ASEAN had yet to engage with the shadow government.

The Afghan collapse could be a disaster to the War on Terror and Washington’s failure in the broader struggle between democracy and authoritarianism can be seen only as a serious setback. The main question is whether the allies of the United States, such as Israel, Japan and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, will feel reassured about the recent US decision, or will they be afraid and insecure about the future of their country, which is closely related to US foreign policy? 

If the Western model that promotes the spread of democracy in the world has proven to be a failure, it will increase the chances of the Chinese model based on cooperation, partnership and a common destiny without interfering in the internal affairs of other countries to succeed. Therefore, it seems that the Chinese model and one of its tools, the Belt and Road Initiative, will be more attractive, has many economic benefits, and bring security and stability. The US withdrawal may turn into an opportunity for China to fill the void and build strategic partnership with this country rich in natural resources, and with a distinguished geographical location between South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, and we might as well greet each other as “Ni How Mar

Analysis of the Latest Burma-American Relations 

In January 2020, the ICJ (International Court of Justice) found that Burma had engaged in ethnic cleansing and genocide and ordered it to take measures to protect members of its “Rohingya” and other minority ethnic communities. On April 29, 2020, Yanghee Lee (U.N. Special Rapporteur about human rights in Burma) condemned Burma for disregarding the ICJ’s ruling. In Nov. 2020, Daw Suu and the NLD disenfranchised more than 2.5 million voters, prevented another party from running, charged an opposition candidate with sedition for criticizing her and her government, and reduced the number of parliamentary seats needed to form the government to ensure re-election. American foreign policy towards Burma was designed to help Daw Suu to establish a liberal democracy in which human rights would be valued and protected. 

America’s most recent foreign policy towards Burma can be traced back to 2007, when Michael Green and Derek Mitchell published a plan in Foreign Affairs for future United States (US) engagement with Myanmar. The plan was highly influential with the Obama Administration as it developed a new policy for the country. Green and Mitchell acknowledged that “neither sanctions nor constructive engagement had worked” and contended that Burma’s ambition of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons,” had “initiated conventional weapons trade with North Korea” in violation of UN sanctions and had “signed an agreement with Russia to develop what it said would be peaceful nuclear capabilities.”

The solution Green and Mitchell proposed was “a new multilateral initiative …  encouraging reform, reconciliation, and ultimately the return of democracy.” The members of the initiative were to be ASEAN, China, India, and Japan – all led by the US. This initiative reflected the idealist doctrine of Wilsonian. The US security was inextricably linked to democratization, and it was naïvely assumed that collective security interests would even push China to help restore democracy in Burma. The initiative was generally adopted by the US State Department in September 2009. In this way, idealism became the philosophical basis for the Obama Administration’s policy towards Burma. No doubt the Obama administration correctly concluded, early in its tenure, that the hard-line policy toward Myanmar had failed. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton wrote, “By 2009, it was hard to argue that our policy of isolation and sanctions was working ….” She began the new multilateral approach to deal with Myanmar by engaging the individual member countries of ASEAN “to fortify the whole by solidifying ties with its parts.” However, despite her efforts, ASEAN took little action concerning Burma only issuing a “weak statement” about the “Rohingya” in 2018 and calling for “dialogue between Rohingya refugees and the Myanmar government” in 2019. It never even acted against Burma after it enacted protectionist regulations in violation of ASEAN treaties. ASEAN’s long-standing non-interference policy thwarted attempts to have it pressure Burma.

Secretary Clinton visited Burma in Dec. 2011 to encourage reform and to persuade Burma to sever ties with North Korea. Burma had purchased arms from North Korea and was suspected of providing it with Uranium. Clinton met independently with Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein. Soon after meeting Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, she told a BBC reporter that “It was like seeing a friend you hadn’t seen for a very long time even though it was our first meeting.” Secretary Clinton saw in Daw Suu, a kindred spirit, and allowed her hope for Daw Suu’s success to override pragmatic considerations. When Secretary Clinton met with President Thein Sein, he requested assistance transitioning Burma to civilian rule. U Thein Sein had led Burma’s reform efforts, which included taking steps to ensure a free press, allowing the NLD to operate and compete in elections, opening the country to foreign companies, and freeing many political prisoners. Secretary Clinton revealed her desire to secure China’s cooperation noting “we welcome positive, constructive relations between China and her neighbors…So from our perspective, we are not viewing this in light of any competition with China.” From China’s perspective, however, US attempts to gain influence in Burma and shape it into a liberal democracy were regarded as a threat. Not only did China not cooperate, but it also eventually succeeded in countering US policy and in persuading Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to have Burma become a partner in its Belt and Road Initiative.

President Obama had appointed Derek Mitchell to be the first US Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma. Mitchell had co-authored the 2007 article that led to the Obama Administration Burma policy. In 2012, President Obama appointed Mitchell the American Ambassador to Burma. Indicating that President Obama wanted an ambassador who could help Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD win the Burma general election and shape the Burmese Foreign Policy. Hence, on 19th Nov. 2012, President Obama accompanied by Secretary Clinton visited Rangoon. It was an historic first visit by a US president to the country. President Obama and Secretary Clinton met with President U Thein Sein, who repeated his request for assistance in transitioning Burma to a civilian government. That request was once again rejected in favour of exclusively helping Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD gain power. President Obama met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at her home, and later gave a speech at the University of Rangoon in which he advocated for a liberal democracy and the right of free expression and offered training to the Tatmadaw. America’s new foreign policy towards Burma was confirmed. Born out of idealism, its goal was to shape Burma into a liberal democracy by supporting Daw Suu and the NLD, securing the assistance of other countries.

Ambassador Mitchell was effective in assisting Daw Suu and the NLD. Under his direction, the Embassy’s American Center offered seminars and talks about the then upcoming general election including on why to vote, how to vote, and how to engage in field organising. Students studying English at the Center were required or incentivised to attend and were cognisant of the Embassy’s and Center’s support for the NLD. Many of those students became organisers for the NLD. However, Ambassador Mitchell’s background and the involvement of American Center graduates in the NLD campaign made it appear that the US was interfering in the 2015 general election in support of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. It would have been better for the US government only to help ensure fair elections, as the European Union as the Carter Center had done, rather than be perceived as putting its thumb on the scale in support of the NLD. The US would thus be in a better position today to develop relations with other political parties.

The NLD took power. Daw Suu almost immediately appointed herself as a State Counsellor of Burma, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Daw Suu’s attention during her first 100 days focused on organizing peace talks with the non-Myanmar insurgent groups and became her top priority but so far not successful as she rarely recruits the non-Myanmar, ethnic intelligentsia both inside Burma and in Diaspora. She accomplished little to improve the economy, education, health care, transportation, and infrastructure. Raison d’etre is hostility to private enterprise and instead relied exclusively on an inept public sector. The Burmese government is staffed mostly by people appointed during military rule, and has been described as a “lethargic,” “inefficient,” and “corrupt” bureaucracy. Having relied on the public sector to implement reforms, the NLD finally acknowledged in 2019 that its efforts were not successful.

With the NLD’s assumption of power, Derek Mitchell was replaced by Scot Marciel a career diplomat because in less than a month, he found himself at odds with Daw Suu, and most Bamar. In mid-September 2016, Daw Suu travelled to Washington to meet with President Obama to seek an increase in US government aid and the lifting of some sanctions that remained on Burma. President Obama restore Burma to the Generalized System of Preferences, which grants duty-free treatment for goods from poor and developing countries. He opined that this would result in a significant increase in American private investment in Burma. President Obama surprised Daw Suu by announcing that he was eliminating most sanctions including on Tatmadaw officers. He justified the decision citing the “remarkable social and political transformation” in the country.

The Trump administration abandoned the Obama administration’s multilateral approach and the belief that China could be recruited to help restore democracy to Burma and was quick to criticize the Tatmadaw’s ethnic cleansing. However, the State Department announced that it continued to “incentivize further reform” in government and institutions, “empower local communities and civil society” and “strengthen…human rights and religious freedom.” 

As every body knows after the election, the Tatmadaw and USDP (Union Solidarity and Development Party) the army offshoot, alleged voter fraud focusing on people who were allegedly not authorized to vote or who may have voted more than once. They took their complaints and evidence to the Union Election Committee, which found that the irregularities were insufficient to change the outcome of the election. The Tatmadaw and USDP filed suit before the Burma Supreme Court, and a hearing was conducted on January 29, 2021. With the new Burma Parliament scheduled to begin on February 5, 2021, the Tatmadaw seized power on 1st Feb 2021, declared a year-long state of emergency and that commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing, would lead the country. Hence the hope of US foreign policy in seeing a new liberal democracy flourish on China’s doorstep has not materialized, and Burma has returned to military rule. The people of Burma have lost hope for democracy and many non-Myanmar ethnicities (32% of the population) may resort to military action to press their interests. As for the problems that Green and Mitchell identified to justify their proposed policy, all remain ongoing concerns. President Obama’s lifting of sanctions on Tatmadaw officers had the unintended consequence of emboldening those who perpetrated the ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Rohingya. President Obama appears to have considered his administration’s engagement with Burma and support of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi a failure.  The continued isolation of the Tatmadaw and USDP during the Trump administration has now backfired leaving the US with limited contact with Tatmadaw and USDP officials, and China and Russia have improved their relationships while the US has been disengaged.  

The China factor has always been an uncomfortable neighbour for Burma, sharing as it does a 2,000km border maintaining harmonious relations has been a priority both for Suu Kyi and the army. But from China’s perspective, the arrival of Joe Biden was an ominous development. It was Biden’s Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, who made a priority of kick-starting democracy in Burma, as a way of peeling it away from the Chinese sphere of influence. President Biden has appointed the official responsible for that policy, Kurt Campbell – author of The Pivot (2016), a book about the US’s shift of focus from the Middle East to Asia – his point man on Asia, as he was for Obama. For America’s Democrats, Myanmar represents unfinished business. By putting Suu Kyi in detention and closing down the duly elected parliament, Min Aung Hlaing has delivered an almighty snub to the current new US administration second only to Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden is threatening to slap new sanctions on Burma after a coup that saw the military arrest the civilian leaders of its government. Burma has been a U.S. democracy promotion project for decades, though there have been recent and serious concerns about its backsliding into authoritarianism. Disappointment with former opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained by the military, has run high. “The military’s seizure of power in Burma, the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials, and the declaration of a national state of emergency are a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law. In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election. For almost a decade, the people of Burma have been steadily working to establish elections, civilian governance, and the peaceful transfer of power. That progress should be respected.” Biden said in a statement.

Across the country Tatmadaw is arresting and forcibly disappearing thousands of people, especially boys and young men, in a sweeping bid to crush a three-month uprising against a military takeover. UNICEF is aware of around 1,000 cases of children or young people who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, many without access to lawyers or their families. It is a technique the military has long used to instill fear and crush pro-democracy movements. The boys and young men are taken from homes, businesses and streets. Some end up dead. Many are imprisoned and sometimes tortured. Many more are missing.

Ever since Burma’s military seized control in February, faces of the missing have flooded the Internet Recently, photos of young people detained by security forces also have begun circulating online and on military-controlled television, their faces bloodied, with clear markings of beatings and possible torture At least 4,00 people have been detained since the military takeover began, more than three-quarters of whom are male. “The military are trying to turn civilians, striking workers, and children into enemies. They think if they can kill off the boys and young men, then they can kill off the revolution.” says Ko Bo Kyi, AAPP’s joint secretary.

Humbly, I construe that American foreign policy towards Burma is in a worse position today than it was in 2007 until and unless it throws its weight behind the current NUG. American foreign policy has not been the only foreign policy to fail in Burma, but no other was developed with as lofty goals and no other assumed such a leadership role in the Western world. That policy now needs to be overhauled and realism should be the guiding principle now that Afghanistan has fallen, and the Domino Theory has come haunting back.

*Kanbawza Win is the former Foreign Affairs Secretary to the Prime Minister of Burma

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