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貌强:Keep Burma's Seat Vacant

   By Dr. Tayza - London, UK

   Translated by Maung Chan (Burma’s Chinese)

   Note by Maung Chan:Dr.Tayza Thuria is a patriotic Burmese medical doctor as well as a human rights activist of Burma, currently in London, England.

   He publishes “the Burma Digest”, a campaign journal for democracy, human rights and federalism in Burma, with Prof. Kanbawza Win as patron, Ko Htun Aung Gyaw, Sai Wansai, Dr. David Law and Dr. Win Naing as board of advisors, Khin Ma Ma Myo, Lwin Aung Soe, Ko Ko Thett, San Oo Aung, Tai Samyone, Feraya Nangmone, Ko Moses as think-tank, and Raluca Enescu as international coordinator.

   Some editorials and wonderful articles of “the Burma Digest” have been translated on time into Chinese language by Burma’s Chinese and published in the world’s Chinese media, So some Chinese people of Taiwan, Singapore, Hongkong, Macau , China as well as U.S.A and Canada have read them and thus know “the Burma Digest” .

   The follwing is Dr. Tayza’s article, which has been translated into Chinese and published worldwide in the Chinese media .

Keep Burma's Seat Vacant

   By Dr. Tayza - London, UK

   In September, the sixth Asia Europe Summit Meeting will be held in Helsinki. During its EU Presidency, Finland will have the honor of hosting the sixth ASEM Summit. But will it be really honorable, we have to consider here.

   As a forum for informal dialogue between the Heads of State and Government of EU countries and South East Asian countries plus China, Japan and Korea, ASEM is a very plausible process to improve cooperation and understanding between Asia and Europe.

   But the problem is that sometimes Asian values and western values are quite different. Many an Asian Governments assume that their people should be happy and contented as long as they are fed, clothed and sheltered well, even though they don't have democracy, human rights and civil liberties.

   Some Asian Governments are never shy to brag about their belief that their authoritarian rules are very effective for expanding their economies and enlarging their trade surpluses over Europe and America, where democratic but weak governments are fussing too much about human rights and labor rights.

   When the two sides of a discussion forum are very different in their fundamental principles and values, it is just natural that controversies can arise frequently.

   One main controversy that arises whenever an ASEM summit is held is the issue of Burma. What to do with Burma and how to deal with Burma’s military regime.

   When the idea of a summit meeting between EU and Asian countries was first floated by Singapore in 1994, some East Asian countries were enjoying double digit economic growth rates and the Association of South East Asian Nations was inspiring to become the EU of Asia, with all ten countries in the region as its members. And Burma became a member of ASEAN in 1997.

   ASEAN with a wishful thinking hoped that they would be able to coax Burmese military dictators towards sincere democratic reforms, and so they embraced Burma as a member in ASEAN. And with the same false hope, they pushed for Burma's attendance in ASEM summits, but their European counter-parts declined to accept Burma's attendance, in the past.

   At the time of ASEM 2 summit, which was held in London in 1998, Amnesty International warned EU leaders, "Rather than sidelining human rights from the summit, the EU should be operating an ethical development policy at ASEM summit. Economic rescue packages, financial aid and business investment should be within the framework of ethical principles, so that human rights in the region are guaranteed both in the short and long term."

   And so Burma didn't get a chance to attend ASEM 2 in London, the city with the mother of all democratic parliaments at its centre.

   And Burma also was not allowed to participate in ASEM 3 in the year 2000.

   But then the dawn of 21st century saw Burma starting production of huge amounts of natural gas from its off-shore gas fields. And EU policy on Burma's attendance in ASEM started to change accordingly_ not very surprising.

   And Burmese military regime was allowed to attend the fourth ASEM summit in Denmark in 2002. But, thanks to Danish love for democracy, Denmark government refused to give entry visas to Burmese military officials. God Bless the Danes.

   But, it seems, Denmark's brave and bold move to reject visa clearance for Burmese military officials coming to ASEM 4 left some oil-and-gas hungry European powers bitterly disappointed. And so they started making preparations to make sure that Burma comes to future ASEM meetings in Europe.

   And they hired regime apologists to make up a report, which when it came out in April 2005 not surprisingly endorsed business engagements with Burma's military regime, one of the worst dictatorships in the world and notorious for its corruption, its total disregard for human rights and its genocide on ethnic minorities in the country.

   And since then pro-regime lobbyists in Europe started proposing that in emergency situations Europe-wide travel ban on Burmese military officials could be exempted. But, for what kind of emergency situations are visa-bans exempted, allowing Burmese military regime officials to come to ASEM 6 summit in Helsinki? Probably the fact that Chinese, Indian, Korean and Japanese companies making huge profits out of Burma's gas fields is prompting a sense of urgency among European businessmen.

   But, in fact, Europe was the birth place of the principles of democracy, civil rights and labour rights. And nowadays, apart from a few former Soviet countries, the entire Europe is rich and democratic_ a shining example of the fact that democracy goes hand in hand with stability and prosperity.

   But when we look at ASEM 6 summit's agenda, although there are business related issues to be discussed such as energy security, globalisation, competitiveness and structural changes in the global economy, not a single word is mentioned about democratization and promotion of human rights around the world_ perhaps to avoid causing embarrassment to the summit's Special Guests of Hounor, Burmese military generals. How sad!

   Europe's esteemed democratic values should not be tainted by the greed of some European businessmen and oil companies.

   ASEAN made the same mistake ten years ago. They expected a win-win situation of doing business with Burma 's military regime and persuading them at the same time to make democratic reforms. But in the end, Burmese generals' persistence in resisting international pressure for democratic reforms made ASEAN lose face with international community.

   ASEAN leaders, becoming too uncomfortable with losing too much credibility in international community because of Burmese generals, have recently decided not to allow Burma take ASEAN chair until Burma has sorted out it domestic problems. In other words they are keeping Burma 's chair in ASEAN vacant.

   Why not Finnish government follow suite? Why can't they keep Burma 's seat in ASEM vacant?

   The Danes have bravely shown that they don't like disgusting murderous military dictators coming to their country. Why the Finns are welcoming the same disgusting murderous military dictators into their country? Do the Finns need more gas and oil than the Danes? Or they just care less about democracy and human rights?

   Let us repeat here: Europe’s esteemed democratic values should not be tainted by the greed of some European businessmen and oil companies.

   Please leave Burma’s seat vacant in ASEM, and ASEAN, and if possible leave it vacant even in the United Nations General Assembly.

   Please keep it vacant until there is a democratically elected civilian government which respect human rights of all people and autonomy of ethnic people in Burma .

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