ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday October 7, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 19
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The situation in Myanmar

The Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry, at the receiving end of an endless stream of haranguing from other countries about what must be done in Sri Lanka, fell for the same language when it came to its turn to say something about the situation in Myanmar.

"Sri Lanka is concerned at the current situation in Myanmar and will continue to observe it closely. "Based on our traditional and longstanding friendship with Myanmar, Sri Lanka is eager that Myanmar resolves all issues through a peaceful process of national reconciliation and political accommodation. It is our hope that all parties will work towards this end, expeditiously, to bring peace and prosperity to Myanmar," read the statement issued not from Colombo, but by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs – in exile – from New York.

The situation in Myanmar has some awkward similarities to that in Sri Lanka, though admittedly, it is worse in that country. Independent reports (not western agency reports) say that the military junta there has shot civilians, restrained Buddhist monks, blockaded monasteries and locked up dissidents in the recent uprising where the people demanded democracy and food.

At least, the Government was not hypocritical in its approach to the developments in Mynamar given its own militarist designs for tackling this country's problems.

In Myanmar, like in Sri Lanka, there is the trammelling of fundamental rights and democratic freedoms coupled with abuses of human rights on the one hand, and the poking of noses by foreign Governments, NGOs and even the United Nations into the affairs of a sovereign state, on the other.

As far as Myanmar is concerned, it is a known fact that these foreign 'bleeding hearts' are sniffing at a country that is rich in natural resources, the world's largest exporter of teak, and a principal source of jade, pearls, rubies and sapphires, and with offshore oil and gas deposits.

It is suspected in some quarters, that western players want a foot-hold in one of the few nations in the world that does permit non-Buddhist actors to have free access to its economically under-privileged people to indulge in proselytising.

And yet, Myanmar has been ruled by the Army since 1962, and has reneged on a transfer of power to Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung Sang, one of the country's most respected freedom fighters, and who won an election but remains incarcerated at her own home. While 'democratic' Sri Lanka is on the horns of this dilemma, whether to condemn or condone the events unfolding in Myanmar, indeed the two countries and her peoples have a long and cherished relationship entwined by the golden thread of Theravada Buddhism.

But what good have the Generals done to Sri Lanka in her most trying times of today? Reports are aplenty that the Generals not only of Myanmar are corrupt, but that several important and influential Generals in many of the South East Asian nations are so.

The recent episode in Thailand, another Theravada Buddhist country with centuries-old ties with Sri Lanka is a case in point. Here, the most wanted LTTE arms procurement operative, known best by his nom du plume 'KP', was taken into custody by the Thai Police recently and then released before the Sri Lanka Government could reach him.

The Thai authorities informed Colombo of the arrest at Pattaya, and then did a somersault to insist that they never apprehended KP, unofficially blaming the Sri Lanka authorities for leaking the information that embarrassed them; but the fact of the matter was that KP was indeed taken into custody, and then let loose despite full knowledge that Sri Lanka and even India wanted such a man who is on the Interpol red-notice list, because the Thais did not want it known, for reasons they know best, that they had KP in their custody.

Much of the weapons for the LTTE insurgency in Sri Lanka come from Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam. Myanmar and Thailand are well-known launching pads for these operations, and that some of the Generals in these countries, apart from other senior officials are on the pay-roll of the LTTE is no secret.

Of what use then, are these Generals to a friendly country like Sri Lanka. And so, the question arises whether there is any rationale for the bland Foreign Ministry statement, mindful no doubt of the fact that the Generals in Myanmar are acting as gatekeepers against the exploitation, if not the rape, of that country by the west, but while raising the question as to whether they are the legitimate custodians or the guardians of the people of Myanmar and the country's interests.

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