Life beyond Referendum

Life beyond Referendum

_ by Thuria Tayza (He sent this e-mail to me)

The referendum is coming. Regardless of political opposition’s denunciation of it as a sham, a sham referendum for a pro-military constitution drafted by a convention of much compliant delegates hand-picked by the military; and despite United Nations’ request to the junta to formulate a more inclusive and more transparent process, the de facto military rulers of Burma are going ahead with their planned referendum where existing and newly crafted laws threaten any body who dares to speak anything against it will face long prison sentences, which in Burma usually comes with an automatic bonus of tortures and ill-treatments. The military junta has rejected United Nations’ proposal to send UN monitors for the referendum. Notwithstanding the plan to hold constitutional referendum in May, majority of people in Burma haven’t seen the draft constitution; actually they don’t even know yet when exactly the referendum will be. Electoral registers are not yet complete, virtually non existent in many remote places of Burma where at least half of the country is either covered by jungles or on difficult terrains of steep hills and tall mountains. In spite of all these it is quite certain, at least for the junta, that the result of the referendum will be a “Yes”, that is even if people actually vote “No” in an overwhelming majority. The referendum is just a formality for the junta to enable them to announce that Burma has been given a new constitution, whether people like it or loathe it. That’s why junta has already declared that general elections will be held in 2010 under the new constitution which is yet to be approved by referendum!

Even though people loathe it and international community denounce it, the new constitution is going to be a very useful tool for the junta. After brutally killing dozens of Buddhist monks in a peaceful demonstration for better living conditions and improved human rights in Burma last year, the military junta came under immense pressure from United Nations and wide ranging sanctions from all self-respecting democratic governments around the world. Even junta’s main sponsor, communist Chinese government, felt embarrassed by Burmese Generals’ blatant breach of human rights. And there is a personal need for Senior General Than Shwe, the supreme leader of junta, who is alleged to be suffering from severe hypertension, diabetes and some intestinal tumours, to get a safe way out before he dies to leave a secure future for his family and a powerful legacy for his loyal followers in the military. A new civilian government, controlled by the military from behind the scene, under the new constitution will give Gen. Than Shwe a chance to claim that he has given a disciplined democracy to Burma. He has already time and again emphasized that Burma’s democracy will be in Burmese style, not American style. And junta’s big brothers China and Russia, and neighbouring countries like India and Thailand who want to get natural gas at a cheap price from Burmese generals will endorse junta’s claims of achieving disciplined democracy in Burma. So, although every self-respecting politician in the democratic hemisphere knows that Burmese people have been given a very bad deal for a fake democracy by their military government, the establishing of a so called disciplined democracy will buy Burmese generals some credibility in other hemisphere influenced by China, Russia and India.

As it is, the political opposition inside Burma and in exile know the fate awaiting them beyond the referendum. But, as terribly weak they are, as dreadfully disunited they are, and as woefully disorganized they are, the political opposition have no ways and means, i.e. no political institution or influence, to stop the referendum, or even to disrupt it. Since all brave and bold activists have been put behind bars during the Saffron Revolution last year, only a few elderly politicians are remaining outside jail, and they are these days just acting as care takers of the apparently exhausted main opposition party, looking forward with their weary eyes to a day in the dim future when the party will be revived by some miracle.

Some exile activists are suggesting boycotting the referendum. Perhaps, they may be able to persuade people in Burma not to vote in the referendum. The low turn out at the referendum may discredit it; but as the latest referendum law does not mention the minimum level of turn out for its validity, low turn out will not stop junta from declaring victory. On the other hand, it’s a certainty that junta will force its soldiers, soldiers’ families and civil servants to cast a “Yes” vote. And, junta lackey militant Kyant-phut and Swan-arr-shin organizations will mobilize their members to intimidate people to go to voting stations and vote “Yes”. Eventually, junta will just count what ever “Yes” votes they can garner and declare that more than 99.99% has voted Yes!

So, alternatively, some suggest making a “No” campaign, to urge people to go and vote No. There’s no question about people’s loathing of corrupt military rulers, and in all possibilities people will take “No” vote as their natural revenge on the brutal military junta. So “No” vote is the natural outcome for the referendum, provided it be genuinely free and fair with real secret voting system. “No” vote will teach a tough lesson to the military and seriously damage their ambition for a perpetual dominance in Burma’s politics. That’s why the all powerful military will not allow “No” campaign to win. Even now, to dishearten “No” campaigners, military is spreading rumours that if “No” campaign wins, another national convention will be convened again which will take another fifteen years like the previous one, effectively giving the military another fifteen years at least to go on ruling as transitional de facto government.

No one knows exactly how the military will respond to a victory of “No” vote. But, nonetheless, people will just have to vote “No” to a constitution which gives 25% of seats in both houses of parliament to military officers hand-picked by their commander-in-chief, which allows military to operate as a totally independent institution with no control what so ever by civilian government on it, which allows military to take over power virtually at any time they like, which allows only three presidential candidates with one of then to be hand-picked by the military. Only fools and soldiers will vote “Yes” to such a constitution; “No” vote is the only choice for people, and “No” campaign is a must for all political activists.

But, as no one knows if the military will really hold a free and fair referendum, as no one knows how military will respond to a “No” victory, and as nothing is certain in Burma where a bunch of unreasonable military generals have absolute control over everything, “No” campaign alone will not be enough solution for Burma’s problems. And, politicians and activists who want to carry on the torch of their political aspirations into long distant future, however bleak it might be, need to start preparing now for all eventualities beyond 2008 May referendum.

Here, it’d not be very impolite to point out an important reason of the chronic failure of Burma’s pro-democracy movement, that is the very re-active nature of many a movement leaders who lack pro-active plans but like to issue one ineffectual statement after another only in a sluggish response to those cunning political moves by street-wise military generals extending and strengthening their powers. Usually, whenever Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is under house-arrest, her deputies just wait for her return, acting only as quiescent care-takers in the mean time. But the problem is she has been under house-arrest most of the time during the last two decades. So, it’s not surprising that she seems to become quite frustrated with the current situation of apparent lack of life in her party. And she, during her last meeting earlier this year with her party elders, pointed out to them the need to carry on the fight with or without her inspiration, and to be able to make decisions with or without her guidance, especially at this critical moment for the future of the country.

So, while making “No” campaign, activists should also start thinking about the next steps to take when military junta declare, in a believe-it-or-not manner, that their constitution has been approved by referendum.

When the new constitution come into effect, by hook or by crook, there will open up three main options to continue the fight against military oppressors _

  1. To take the new constitution as the symbol of total defeat and failure of current non-violent struggle, and launch an all out armed revolution.
  2. To continue the non-violent struggle but in a more active manner, taking direct actions frequently, mobilizing Saffron Revolution style people power uprisings as frequently as possible, trying to destabilize any future puppet civilian government under military control.
  3. To play along with the new constitution and take part in elections and attempt to fight any future puppet civilian government from inside, or from inside the parliament
    Actually, all these three components can be used in a harmoniously synchronized combination. But to accomplish such a massive political effort and organization, pro-democracy parties will need new generations of more daring and more active leaders.

In reality, number two and number three options are more practically feasible than the first, as armed revolution nowadays seem to become totally obsolete. Since “nine eleven” no government around the world would provide assistance to an armed revolution in Burma, however much sympathetic they are to Burma’s struggle for democracy. And all those successful coloured democratic uprisings (velvet one in Georgia, orange one in Ukraine, etc) in recent history are based on non-armed movements. Even the terrorist Hamas has finally come to power in Gaza Strip through political elections. Likewise, today’s major armed ethnic resistance groups in Burma, if they understand changing trends in the world, will in near future need to form political wings like Sin Fein of IRA, to take part in elections and to make two-pronged efforts (non-armed political offensives as well as armed self defence against any attempted genocide) ultimately towards self-determination and autonomy in their homelands.

If the pro-democracy movement, especially the movement’s main political party the National League for Democracy NLD, is to survive and thrive beyond 2008, and beyond 2010, the party must try to build political muscle. Of course, military junta and its security apparatuses and its future successor puppet civilian government will all try their best to contain and crush NLD party. But if there’s a will, there will be a way. There had been many instances in the past where activists successfully organized strong movements despite intense scrutiny and tight control by security forces; e.g. , under difficult situations students organized and mobilized protests in 1987, 1988, 1996, and student leaders initiated white shirt movement and open heart campaigns of 2006 and anti-inflation demonstrations of 2007 despite the junta stamping down on them. And with the new constitution and new elections in 2010, it will become inevitable for military junta to allow some room for political activities inside the country. So NLD must try to regroup and rebuild itself, and must try to establish a well organized political institution inside the country, mostly above ground but also some under ground elements as required; and there must be a long line up, a virtually endless supply, of new generation leaders who will take over and carry on the fight whenever their senior colleagues are arrested or eliminated by the military.

Most important above all else will be to bring together people power; to re-align the movement as one for the people, and by the people, instead of a movement by a small group of politicians for transfer of power to their party.

Recently, there has been poverty relief efforts and rice distribution by Amyotheryei U Win Naing and group. And, there was Ko Htin Kyaw and group who voiced people’s concerns for the worsening poverty, lack of credible social welfare and lack of electricity supply, etc. And, there was an effort by Phyu Phyu Thin and group to provide assistance to HIV patients. And there were attempts by Su Su Nway and group to protect the rights of people used as forced labourers by the military. And there even is a group led by actor Kyaw Thu providing free funeral arrangements for poor families. And there are many a faceless civilian journalists and bloggers from inside Burma who try to record the sufferings of people and spread the word to the outside world. And there are numerous groups which are providing healthcare, education, food, shelter and other helps to refugees, migrants and displaced people along Thai-Burma border.

But sadly, we haven’t seen anything significant done, or said, by current caretaker leaders of the movement, and the elected people’s representatives inside and outside the country, for the relief of poverty and sufferings of the people.

Since 1990, all policy platforms of current caretaker leaders of the movement and the elected people’s representatives inside and outside the country have steadfastly been based on 1990 election results; all statements issued, all request and proposals made to the junta, all petitions and open letters written to United Nations, all policy initiatives laid down, and all political strategies designed have consistently been centred around 1990 election results and the need to get power transferred according to 1990 election results.

But the truth is, after nearly two whole decades, under very terrible real-life situations on the ground, the long suffering and now virtually starving people are no longer interested in election results of twenty years ago. And, the younger newer generation activists of today were either born after 1990 elections or were in a very tender young childhood at the time of the election. So, although they care very much about nowadays’ terrible poverty suffered by their fellow country men under a corrupt military junta, they do not care that much about an election result some two decades ago which the military junta refused to recognize.

And remember that the massive Saffron Revolution of 2007 was not at all about politics or political parties or political elections. The people in 2007 were already absolutely poor and on the brink of starvation which was dramatically worsened by junta’s five-fold increase in fuel prices. Angry people led by their student leaders came out onto streets and marched and made protests which were supported by Buddhist monks, which led to brutal beatings by soldiers on the monks, which in turn angered the mass of Buddhist monks and devotees in majority Buddhist country Burma, eventually leading to the explosion of the Saffron Revolution. So it is very clear that Saffron Revolution exploded solely and spontaneously out of people’s poverties and miseries, nothing to do with politicians or political parties.

Since before 1990, and until now, people of Burma have been trying to get rid of an unwanted military rule. But there is a delicate and gradual change in underlying reason to get rid of the military rule. In 1990s people were angry with the military junta because they felt that, by refusing to recognize 1990 election results, the military had cheated people of their legitimate choice of government. But in 2007 and now, people are angry with the military junta because military generals’ corruptions, brutalities and incompetence has caused so much and so terrible sufferings to the people.

So, if the pro-democracy movement is to survive and thrive beyond 2008 and 2010, there are two imminent and immediate requirements to fulfil.

The first is to reinvigorate the movement by getting more energetic new generation leaders who can get along and go along with people better, and are bold enough to initiate, organize and lead people power movements as required to take direct political action against military aggressors.

Nowadays’ younger generation of grass-root junior activists are looking for new generation leaders, like the 8888 generation students, who understand the people and are understood in return by the people, who sympathize with the people and are sympathized by the people, who speak out for the people and are spoken very highly of by the people, who stood up for the people and are rallied around by the people.

And the second requirement is to realign the movement with the people by speaking up about people’s sufferings, representing people’s interests, trying to help people in every possible way, fighting for the people, fighting to get power for the people but not fighting to get power for a party.

Usually, in democratic systems politicians whose policies best reflect people’s most pressing concerns have the best chance to get elected. Bill Clinton on economy platform during economic recessions of the beginnings of 1990s. Second Bush winning second term with a tough warrior stance on national security platform during an era of terrorist phobia.

As people in Burma are suffering quite a lot, there are a lot of things which Burmese politicians can speak out for their people. First of all there is very high inflation and low income, coupled with high un-employment and low morale. Many people are starving, and millions of children are malnourished. Child mortality rate is very high. With very meagre and poor quality health-care, maternal mortality rate is also high; and general population’s life expectancy is also very low. Nasty infectious diseases like HIV, TB, etc are very prevalent. Education system is very chaotic. Starving and un-educated children are sold into sex-slavery or used as under-age under-paid labourers. Jobless women also fall into prostitution in neighbouring countries. Military frequently uses people as unpaid forced labourers. Military also uses child soldiers. Military can confiscate people’s houses, land and any thing they want at any time and any where they like without giving any compensation. Judges, juries and the whole judicial system runs on bribery. The entire government bureaucratic system from top to bottom is rife with corruptions. And there is no media freedom, and all phones and emails and internet access are tightly controlled and monitored by security forces. If we go on and on (I¡Ä(B.. there will be an endless list of people’s sufferings. There is quite a lot for politicians to speak out on behalf of the people; they only need to have a will to do so. If politicians really love their country, as they usually tend to claim, they must think more about helping the people rather than about getting power for themselves. In a democratic system politicians really need to serve the people.

And, by the way, a few words about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; there is a very strong possibility that the people’s long drawn-out struggle for human rights in Burma may outlive their leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. There is a very essential need to keep the freedom struggle and revolutionary spirit alive as long as necessary, until Burma become fully democratic with genuine and complete human rights, which may take up to twenty years or fifty years or even a century if all these democratic reforms and human rights improvements are to develop so very gradually against generations upon generations of hard-line dogmatic aggressive military generals who want to maintain their dominance in Burma’s politics. The need is real, and may be even urgent, to make sure that the struggle will not die down or fizzle out when, in an eventuality, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer there to inspire it and lead it.

And concerning exile politicians; although they cannot serve the people directly, must try to make a difference in Burma’s politics by repeatedly telling the international community time and again about the non-inclusive nature of the constitution drafting convention, the un-democratic nature of the new constitution, the lack of transparency in the referendum, so the illegitimacy of coming elections in 2010, and also the puppet nature of the future civilian government which the military is trying to install under their control.

And for the United Nations and the international community; if they really want to help Burma, they must first try to understand the true nature of Burma’s current problems, and need to see clearly that Burma’s problem is not a power struggle between a political party and a military junta, but is about the suffering, poverty and misery of the people under a corrupt and incompetent military junta. So if international community want to give a genuine help to people of Burma, they must try to help relieve sufferings of the people, and also get more freedom for the people if possible. Before UN envoy Mr Gambari’s latest visit to Burma, when he sent five written requests to the junta, one of the requests was about co-operations between UN and Burmese junta to make a joint effort for poverty relief for the poor people of Burma. But it was rudely rejected by the military junta. But Mr Gambari should not be disappointed by the junta’s total indifference towards people’s sufferings, but keep up his good work and try again, and again, to provide direct help to the people.

And the future civilian government after 2010 elections (even though it most probably will be a puppet one); it should try its best to reduce hostilities among all political factions in Burma, and try to build trust, try to be flexible, and try to work well with all politicians and parties in the parliament; should even try to form a broad-based big-tent government if possible.

One last word, for the generals, about sanctions_ generals need to understand that sanctions are the fruits of their own wrong doings. As long as military dominance is persisting in Burma, so also will the sanctions be on the businesses of military generals, their families and cronies. Sanctions nowadays are a default response mechanism of international community to any authoritarian regime. So if they really want lifting of sanctions, Burmese generals need to show that they deserve it by making solid credible, even if gradual, reforms in the right direction.

(The author got the M.B.,B.S. Medical Degree from Burma but is not practising in UK. He  is now a post graduate Law student in London; and general secretary of the UK-based exile branch of Burma’s National League for Democracy)

Gambari diplomatically hiding his failure

 Gambari diplomatically hiding his failure

Note: The heading is my own idea. But the following newspaper’s facts and idea are not contrary to my heading. 

From what he has said and from what the military junta expressed to him during his third visit, United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari is unlikely to have achieved anything toward national reconciliation and democracy in military run Burma.

The Nation, Published on March 13, 2008

Gambari finished his latest visit to the troubled country on Monday, making a brief stopover in Singapore – but without meeting any officials of the current Asean chair, or the media. The reaction after the visit was different from his usual routine following his previous trips. For Burma affairs, nothing is top secret for the UN representative, unless he has nothing to say or nothing has been achieved.

Gambari met many people during his stay in Burma from last Thursday to Monday, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he met twice this time, on Sunday and Monday. However, the details of their discussion are not yet known. Previously, Gambari rushed to tell the media whenever he got a statement from Aung San Suu Kyi that she was ready to talk with the junta over political reconciliation. The UN envoy then shuttled around the globe to tell the same thing to world leaders whom he expected to help him bring about a dialogue between Burma and those in Bangkok, Beijing and New Delhi.

This time Gambari got a very tough assignment from his boss, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, to achieve a substantive dialogue between the junta and the opposition. Actually the authorities in the Burmese capital, Napyidaw were originally scheduled to welcome Gambari in April, but the secretary-general made a request to have his special envoy visit early.

Gambari was allowed in, with permission for an extended stay, but the visit lasted only five days, as many of his requests for meetings were rejected.

Prior to Gambari’s visit, UN chief Ban sent a letter in February to the paramount Burmese leader, Than Shwe requesting a five-point cooperation deal to help his special envoy achieve his mission. The junta later decided to dump all UN requests and even burnt them in public, allowing only the government mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar, to publicise the substance of the meeting between the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) spokesman Kyaw Hsan and Gambari over the weekend. Kyaw Hsan told Gambari that the Burmese government would arrange for UN visitors at any time as proposed, but the establishment of a special office in Rangoon for Gambari was unnecessary since the UN already had many representatives in the country through whom Gambari could work.

The second point, which Gambari championed before his visit, was to have inclusive participation in Burmese politics. But this was also dismissed by the junta. Kyaw Hsan said the new Burmese constitution had already been drafted and would not be amended any further. The draft bars those who are married to foreigners from participating in politics. More precisely, it prevents Aung San Suu Kyi from having any hope of being elected as the next Burmese leader.

“It was Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy who decided not to participate in the constitution drafting. There cannot be any more ‘all-inclusiveness’ in this process,” Kyaw Hsan told Gambari.

On the third point, Ban asked to have a credible, timeframe and all-inclusive discussion between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi, including support by the UN.

Kyaw Hsan simply replied that the National Convention – the constitution drafting body – is the most credible and all-inclusive political discussion forum.

Now, discussions between the Minister for Information and Aung San Suu Kyi are under way in accordance with UN wishes. Than Shwe even could meet the opposition leader if Suu Kyi agrees to drop her demands for the continuance and extension of international sanctions against the junta. But as long as Aung San Suu Kyi maintains this stance, the dialogue cannot be productive, Kyaw Hsan said.

On the demands for the release of political prisoners, the junta simply said that it has no political prisoners, but that those who are serving jail terms or are under other restrictions, including Aung San Suu Kyi, have violated the laws.

The final UN point, a request to have an inclusive National Economic Forum for addressing economic and social affairs, and a cooperative mechanism for humanitarian assistance, was simply rejected as being “useless”, Kyaw San said.

“If Your Excellency helps to lift economic sanctions, allow aid into the country, and approve loans, it might be more effective than the Economic Forum you propose. Giving assistance for poverty reduction while imposing sanctions will never produce the right solution,” he said.

Kyaw Hsan also pointed out to Gambari that democracy developed in accordance with different contexts in different countries. He compared his constitution-making process with neighbouring Thailand.

“Now, the Thai people have approved and started to practice a new constitution for Thailand. But none of the candidates of the People Power Party and the opposition Democrat Party had the right to participate in the [drafting] process. To make it clearer, in Iraq, Shi’ite militants who oppose the US, and Sunni militants who have links with al-Qaeda had no right to participate in the process of drafting a constitution. Similarly, in Afghanistan, the Taleban had no right to draft the constitution. We haven’t heard any objection to these events by those persons and organisations who are objecting to us. But with the drafting of the constitution in our country, many are criticising us and pointing out that certain persons are not among the representatives in the process. It is not reasonable,” he said.

Gambari has no argument, as the UN has nothing to bargain with. He simply said he would convey the message to his boss, whom he would meet in Senegal this week.

Supalak Ganjanakhundee

The Nation

Read United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari ‘s report here.

Persistence and patience

don’t pay in Burma

The Nation: Regional neighbours need to exert more pressure on the junta to achieve political reconciliation

When dealing with the Burmese junta, concerned parties, especially the UN and its special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, must be prepared for long and often futile negotiations and continual setbacks. Since 1988, those who have engaged Burma have had their faces slapped by the generals. Indeed, Gambari was snubbed again by the junta just a week ago. This has increasingly become the typical pattern of engagement with Burma. If anything, there is also a realisation that the junta is calling the shots and nothing can progress without its agreement. This is the saddest development since last September, when violence broke out on the streets of Rangoon and other cities. The whole world witnessed more atrocities committed by Burmese troops, who gunned down monks and other peaceful protestors. The international community led by the Western countries suddenly became more vociferous. The UN Security Council managed to talk a lot but there was no solution to the situation. Since then, Gambari has visited Burma three times but without any substantial progress being made. The junta leaders know the game plan very well. They know how to manipulate both Gambari and the good offices of the UN.

Recently, the junta surprised the world with its announcement that there would be a national referendum on the new constitution in May, followed by a general election in 2010. But the electoral law bars any possible participation by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. With such a “roadmap”, the junta’s supporters have extra ammunition to further bolster the regime. Already, China and Asean have expressed support for this roadmap. Thailand is the most enthusiastic. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej went out of his way last week to accommodate the regime, without knowing the full implications for Thailand.

Without Thai support, the political reconciliation process in Burma will continue to stall – and thus work in favour of the junta. During the Surayud government, relations between the two countries were frozen. There were no new activities in the political or economic fields. However, with the formation of a new Thai government, the friendship has returned to normal. Severed economic links have been restored and Thailand is again willing to play second fiddle to Burma. With such an attitude, Thailand’s role in the Burmese crisis is turning into a travesty. Samak praised the regime after his visit to Rangoon. His comments revealed Thailand’s naivete and its leader’s foul mouth. Foreign Minister Noppadon Patama was no better. He said the situation in Burma is an internal matter and that Thailand does not support sanctions.

Apparently, the UN is the only hope. But the treatment of Gambari during his last visit was unwarranted. While the UN is still the best hope to help end the impasse, it lacks teeth. One of the problems is that UNSC members are not acting together. Both Russia and China support the Burmese junta. Their positive contributions to the six-party peace talks have yet to be seen. The UNSC must now bridge the gap and come together with a unified view that the Burmese situation is a threat to regional peace and security. 

It is interesting to note that all Thai leaders, including former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the current premier, are willing to make trade-offs with the Burmese generals. Given the current stalemate, there should be new initiatives to bolster the UN position. Within Asean, countries like Indonesia and Vietnam could do more. At one time, Indonesia under Suharto was considered an ideal model by the Burmese regime. But democratisation since 1998 has made Indonesia less attractive to the generals. Vietnam’s engagement with the West, and its successful economic development in the past two decades, has attracted the junta’s attention. Together with the UN, these countries could make a new impression on the junta. During the height of the Cambodian conflict in the 1980s, Indonesia helped break the deadlock, which subsequently led to the Paris peace talks. Maybe with a right combination of actors exerting pressure, things could move ahead in Burma.  

The Nation

Boycott China Olympics in support of Tibet

Boycott China Olympics

in support of Tibet

Copied part of CNN politics*com, Cafferty File, Jack’s blog
ALT TEXT
A burning car sits on a street in the Tibetan capital Lhasa after violent protests broke out on March 14, 2008. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

Dalai Lama 'to resign' if violence worsens

art.wen.ap.jpg

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said China’s response to the protests in Tibet has been restrained.

  

art.lhasashops.afp.gi.jpg

Pedestrians walk past shops damaged by fire in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. 

art.policelhasa.jpg

A video image of Chinese police carrying out door-to-door searches in Lhasa. 

FROM CNN’s Jack Cafferty:

China has been hoping to boost its image in the eyes of the world as it gets ready to host the Summer Olympics in Beijing, but the Chinese government’s crackdown on protesters in Tibet is not helping.

What began a week ago as mostly peaceful protests by monks has spiraled into violent clashes, with Tibetans attacking the Chinese and burning their businesses. The Chinese government is now vowing to protect its territory and issued a midnight deadline that’s now passed for protesters to either surrender or face harsh consequences.

There are reports of Chinese authorities parading handcuffed Tibetan prisoners in the capital of Lhasa. Chinese police are going house-to-house checking id cards and residence permits. The Chinese government puts the death toll at 16, with dozens injured. But the Dalai Lama’s exiled government says 80 people have been killed.

Meanwhile, the protests that started in Tibet have spilled into three neighboring provinces and even to Beijing. And sympathy protests are also going on around the world.

China insists the violence won’t harm the upcoming Olympic games. The U.S. has called on China to show restraint.

However, it’s getting support from who else but Russia – another beacon of human rights. The Russian government says it hopes China will take “all necessary measures to stop illegal actions.” It adds that any efforts to boycott the Olympics are “unacceptable.”

Olympic officials also say they are opposed to a boycott because of the violence in Tibet.

Here’s my question to you: Should countries boycott the Olympic Games in light of China’s crackdown on protesters in Tibet?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

 

Jeff from Carmel, New York writes:
It’s a travesty. We stomp around the world fighting for freedom except when the offender is someone like China, whose money we desperately need. The world should rise up and boycott everything Chinese until the people of Tibet regain their freedom. These are the most peaceful people on earth; they should be role models for all of us. They deserve better.

Terry writes:
I remember in 6th grade participating in a school debate over boycotting the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. I supported that boycott, but today’s world is different, as is my opinion. Go to China, enjoy the games, and take your digital cameras. The citizens will be putting on a display for you. Send your pictures to CNN. Don’t get caught. Sunshine in China may be the best thing to happen to them. If you want to boycott something to really hurt China, stay out of Wal-Mart.

Brian from Redondo Beach, California writes:
Yes, boycott. China reminds one of Germany in the 30s. Will our people be safe there? And will the judging be fair even if we do attend? Hit them economically, which is what a boycott would accomplish.

James from Canada writes:
Given Guantanamo, rendition, Abu Ghraib, waterboarding, etc., the U.S. is hardly in any position to lead a human rights boycott of the Olympics.

Krake writes:
Boycotting will be a late and inadequate reaction. Allowing China to have the Olympics was the big mistake, especially since it was already known that the Chinese government is a human rights abuser and cruel regime. The violence in Tibet simply highlights what was already known.

Troy writes:
I would rather see our athletes wear “Free Tibet” T-shirts in Beijing during the opening ceremony. Oh Mao goodness.

Filed under: Beijing Olympics • China • Tibet

Read more in Cafferty File

TIBET COLONIZED AND MASSACRED BY CHINA

 TIBET COLONIZED

AND MASSACRED BY CHINA

In 1950, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army entered the Tibetan area of Chamdo, crushing minimal resistance from the ill-equipped Tibetan army. In 1951 only, the Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet was forced upon representatives of the Dalai Lama by the PLA’s military, and Beijing affirmed Chinese sovereignty over Tibet. As a result, a rebellion broke out in Amdo and eastern Kham in June of 1956 and eventually spread to Lhasa. During this campaign, tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed. The 14th Dalai Lama and other government principals fled to exile in India, but isolated resistance continued in Tibet until 1969. Dalai Lama has fled to India after the failed Tibetan uprising in 1959, and established him as the traditional head of the Tibetan government.

During the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Red Guards inflicted a campaign of organized vandalism against cultural sites in the entire PRC, including Tibet’s Buddhist heritage. Of the several thousand monasteries in Tibet, over 6,500 were destroyed, only a handful remained without major damage, and hundreds of thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns were killed or imprisoned. Tibetan exiles state that the number that have died in the much unwanted Great Leap Forward, of violence, or other indirect causes since 1950 is approximately 1.2 million

Dalai Lama has stated his willingness to negotiate with China for “genuine autonomy”. The Dalai Lama sees the millions of Han immigrants, attracted to the TAR by economic incentives and preferential socioeconomic policies, as presenting an urgent threat to the Tibetan nation by diluting the Tibetans both culturally and through intermarriage. Chinese authorities view the Dalai Lama, in exile in India since 1959, as the linchpin of the effort to separate Tibet from China and view Tibetan Buddhist belief as supportive of his efforts. Suspected ‘separatists,’ many of whom come from monasteries and nunneries, are routinely imprisoned. In January 2006, Gendun, a Tibetan monk, received a four-year prison sentence for opinions expressed in his lectures on Tibetan history and culture. In June 2006, five Tibetans, including two nuns, were detained for publishing and distributing independence leaflets. In July, Namkha Gyaltsen, a monk, received an eight-year sentence for his independence activities. In August, armed police detained Khenpo Jinpa, an abbot. In September, Lobsang Palden, another monk, was charged with ‘initiating separatist activities.’

On September 30, Chinese People’s Armed Police shot at a group of approximately 40 Tibetan refugees attempting to cross the border into Nepal, killing a 17-year-old nun, Kelsang Namtso, and possibly others. The rest of the group fled, though witnesses reported seeing Chinese soldiers marching approximately 10 children back to a nearby camp. The official press agency Xinhua claimed that the soldiers were ‘forced to defend themselves,’ but film footage showed soldiers calmly taking aim and shooting from afar at a column of people making their way through heavy snow.

See also_

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His Holiness reiterates firm commitment to the Middle-Way Policy

Chinese immigrant influx in Tibet is a serious threat: British MP

Kasur Tashi Wangdi to head new Office of Tibet in Brussels

Tibetans detained for chanting “long live His Holiness”

Thousands attend His Holiness’ spring teachings

Tibetans honoured with an Indian National Animal Award

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Congressman Tom Lantos – Human Rights Champion passes away

 

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Tibet House Trust

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP TIBET

THE OFFICE OF TIBET    or  Find the Nearest Office of Tibet
Tibet House, 1 Culworth Street
London NW8 7AF
Tel: 0044-20-7722 5378
Fax: 0044-20-7722 0362

  • 500 Tibet University students reported under arrest; Big Three monasteries under siege by Chinese security forces.

    Running battles reported at Labrang Monastery in Northeast Tibet, which has also been surrounded by security forces.

  • Stay tuned to Students for a Free Tibet’s latest information on protests in Tibet.

    TibetanUprising.org is covering events in India as Tibetans attempt to march back into Tibet.

    Read the Statement by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on this year’s 49th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan National Uprising.

    The tragic events in Tibet are the result of the intensified repression by China all over Tibet in the lead up to the 2008 Olympic Games. When it was awarded the Olympic Games in 2001, China’s government made promises to improve the human rights situation. But neither the IOC (International Olympic Committee) nor the sponsors have attempted to keep China to its word. Instead, their silence has encouraged China to continue with its repression in Tibet. It was foreseeable that sooner or later the situation would explode. The crackdown and the bloodshed could have been avoided. IOC has played a deplorable part in causing these tragic events. It is high time it should remove its head from the sand and speak out in defence of the Tibetan people!

  • Report phoned in from Lhasa, Saturday, March 15:

    “The situation is terrible. The person cried while talking to me and said that so many people had been killed. The chinese shot at everybody in sight and blood and piles of corpses are lying around the main temple Tsuglakhang in Lhasa. Many people have been put into prison where they are being beaten. Tibetans are being forced to beat up their own countrymen. Many Tibetans are refusing to do so. All travel has been banned. The person appealed for help.” <!– Sign on to Support Team Tibet
    at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing!
    Just released! “Tibet: A Human Development and Environment Report”,
    from the Dept. of Information and International Relations
    –>

    Tibet's Location
    Tibet in Relation to
    Her Neighbors

    Welcome! Tibet Online is operated by the international Tibet Support Group community, providing information on the plight of Tibet and serving as a virtual community space for the movement. This movement is dedicated to ending the suffering of the Tibetan people by returning the right of self-determination to the Tibetan people.

    Tibet’s ancient and fantastic civilization and ecosystem are faced with extinction due to 58 years of mismanagement and abuse under its colonial ruler, the People’s Republic of China. The ongoing destruction of Tibet will only be halted when the fate of Tibet is once again back in the hands of the Tibetans. Please contact a Tibet Support Group near you to find out what you can do to help!

    Featured Links:
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    Phayul – News and Views on Tibet by Tibetans | Support Team Tibet at the Olympics!_

    Kidnapped by the Chinese Government:
    Help Free the 11th Panchen Lama

    The Panchen Lama

  • China Olympic Games and Repression

    China Olympic Games and Repression

    Repression continues in China, before Olympic

    Myanmar democracy activists urge

    Olympics boycott

    BANGKOK (AFP) –

    Myanmar democracy activists called Monday on people across the world to boycott televised coverage of this summer’s Olympics in Beijing, in protest at China’s support for the ruling military junta.

    The 88 Generation Students group, which includes some of the country’s top pro-democracy leaders, also urged viewers against buying any merchandise linked to the Games.

    The Olympics are set to open on August 8, the 20th anniversary of a pro-democracy uprising led by students in Myanmar.

    The military, which has ruled the country formerly known as Burma since 1962, opened fire on the crowds, killing an estimated 3,000 people.

    Leaders of the uprising were handed lengthy prison sentences, but when released they formed the 88 Generation Student group.

    The group began new protests in August last year, harnessing public anger at a surprise hike in fuel prices that left many unable to afford even meagre bus fares to work.

    Many of the leaders were again arrested, but Buddhist monks took over the protest movement, which swelled into the biggest anti-government uprising since 1988.

    In a statement issued by leaders now in hiding, the group called “for citizens around the world to pressure the government of China to withdraw its unilateral support of the Burmese military junta and to boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”

    “China is a major trade partner, major arms supplier and major defender of the junta in the international arena,” it said.

    “The military junta in Burma is still in power to this day, despite strong and continuous resistance by the people of Burma, because of China’s support.”

    The group said that instead of supporting the regime, China should help to facilitate a national dialogue among the military and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

    The military last week announced that it had completed drafting a new constitution that it plans to bring to a referendum in May. The document would bar Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize winner, from running in elections now slated for 2010.

     

         
     
    Repression continues in China, one year before Olympic Games
    The Reporters Without Borders list of nine things the Chinese authorities must do before the Beijing Olympic Games:
    Reporters Without Borders also supports the eight demands of the Collectif Chine JO 2008 (China 2008 Olympics Collective), an alliance of nine human rights organisations based in France:
    Reporters Without Borders wrote to IOC Jacques Rogge in June 2007

    Repression continues in China,

    before Olympic Games

    When the International Olympic Committee assigned the 2008 summer Olympic Games to Beijing on 13 July 2001, the Chinese police were intensifying a crackdown on subversive elements, including Internet users and journalists. Six years later, nothing has changed. But despite the absence of any significant progress in free speech and human rights in China, the IOC’s members continue to turn a deaf ear to repeated appeals from international organisations that condemn the scale of the repression.

    From the outset, Reporters Without Borders has been opposed to holding the Olympic Games to Beijing. Now, a year before the opening ceremony, it is clear the Chinese government still sees the media and Internet as strategic sectors that cannot be left to the “hostile forces” denounced by President Hu Jintao. The departments of propaganda and public security and the cyber-police, all conservative bastions, implement censorship with scrupulous care.

    At least 30 journalists and 50 Internet users are currently detained in China. Some of them since the 1980s. The government blocks access to thousands for news websites. It jams the Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur-language programmes of 10 international radio stations. After focusing on websites and chat forums, the authorities are now concentrating on blogs and video-sharing sites. China’s blog services incorporate all the filters that block keywords considered “subversive” by the censors. The law severely punishes “divulging state secrets,” “subversion” and “defamation” – charges that are regularly used to silence the most outspoken critics. Although the rules for foreign journalists have been relaxed, it is still impossible for the international media to employ Chinese journalists or to move about freely in Tibet and Xinjiang.

    Read more

    And continue to read these

    Petition

    Support the international campaign by signing this petition that will be sent to Liu Qi, the president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games and secretary of the Beijing municipal committee of the Communist Party of China

    Support the international campaign by signing this petition that will be sent to Liu Qi, the president of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games and secretary of the Beijing municipal committee of the Communist Party of China

    Pictures of the campaign

    See photos of the operations carried out in Beijing, Paris, New York…

    Media downloads

    Download the “Beijing 2008” campaign graphic
    Download the “Beijing 2008” web banner

    in this country

    15.10 – China
    Reporters Without Borders activists rally in front of Olympic museum in Lausanne as Chinese Communist Party’s 17th congress opens
    15.09 – China
    New York Times researcher Zhao Yan freed on completing jail term
    14.09 – China
    Arrests and incidents involving foreign journalists show government is not keeping Olympic Games promises
    31.08 – China
    Congress passes law censoring disaster coverage
    30.08 – China
    Calling for lawsuit’s dismissal, Yahoo! says it is “political and diplomatic issue”

    in the annual report

    China – Annual report 2007

    Chinese Difficulty is Burmese opportunity,

    Boycott China Olympic

    boycott_beijing2008.jpg

    This blogger cut and pasted the original slogan ” British difficulty, is Burmese opportunity” which was a famous nationalist slogan during the British Colonial revolution.

    This blogger feels that the time is over due to start the campaign to boycott the Chinese Olympic as Chinese Communist Government has avoided its responsibility as a communist party to support the oppressed Burmese People against the Imperialist Military Junta.

    International community sees China as a new emerging superpower, which is able to play a pivotal role to solve the problem in country like North Korea and Sudan. Chinese Communist Government who has planned the Olympic , spent billions of Dollars for preparation, and for mega sports facilities for their up coming National Event.

    At the same time, Chinese communist authority must be very nervous for any negative effect towards the ” Chinese Olympic” which will be a prestigious event for the Modern China. This event will be remembered in the history of China as its legacy.

    Since Chinese Communist Government has blind eyes and deaf ears towards the 50 Million Burmese people’s voice, we should make Chinese Communist Government difficult and Shameful for supporting the world’s worse regime ” Military Junta of Burma”.

    To Burmese freedom fighters, this is the time we should start the slogan

    ” Chinese Difficulty is Burmese opportunity”

    This is the auspicious time , to start a campaign for boycotting the Chinese Olympic.

    Sit Mone

    Don’t waste time and money, Just order the new Constitution and continue ruling Myanmar forever

      Don’t waste time and money

    Just order the new Constitution

    and continue ruling Myanmar forever

    Myanmar Military announced the dates for the referendum and election after the conclusion of the drafting guidelines for a new constitution.

    The regime’s new constitution is to be voted in a referendum, elections would follows.

    • The SPDC is avoiding the dialogue with Daw Suu led NLD by using lame excuses, one sided demands and preconditions.
    • The SPDC is not interested for a National reconciliation process.
    • SPDC is actually not initiating any meaningful democratization process.
    • They just started a sham, fake democracy to use as a smokescreen to continue its dominance.

    Dear SPDC Sr General Than Shwe, why do you all want waste a lot of time and money on this useless or worthless papers?

    • Do you think that Myanmar/Burmese people would accept them?
    • Do you think that USA and EU led Western democratic governments would accept them?
    • Do you think that the people around the world would accept them?
    • Do you think that Daw Suu led NLD would accept them?
    • Do you think that all the monks would accept them?
    • Do you think that all the students would accept them?
    • Do you think that the Burmese opposition would accept them?
    • Do you think that all the Ethnic Minorities would accept them?
    • Do you think that all the Religious Minorities would accept them?
    • Do you think that all the ceased fire groups would accept them?
    • Do you think that all the rebel-groups would accept them?

    We don’t think so.

    All the right thinking persons could give the same RIGHT answer, which is NO!

    If the Sr General thinks RIGHT, we are sure there is something WRONG with your mind.

    RIGHT! I mean that it is WRONG for you to even dream that your referendum result and the new election results would be accepted by anyone on earth except your cronies and sycophant.

    (Sycophant = servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people. One who flatters another excessively: adulator, courtier, flatterer, toady. Informal apple-polisher.)

    • Why do you want to waste the country’s budget money?
    • Why do you want to waste your ‘precious time’?
    • Just do it!
    • Just announce it!
    • Just declare your order!
    • Just declare, announce, decree or order the new constitution yourself and hope to rule Burma forever.
    • Like the end of every fairytale, your Myanmar Tatmadaw just continues to rule Myanmar forever!

    But be careful, in every fairytale_

    THE GOOD ALWAYS TRIUMPH OVER THE BAD!

    In every fairytale the jailed beautiful, good, kind just princess (read Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) would be freed and always regain the rightful throne.

    In every fairytale the wicked, powerful, cruel, greedy villain (read SPDC Junta Sr General) would be dethroned and punished.

    This theme repeats itself numerous times_

    • not only in the fairytales
    • but in the Buddhist Jattakas,
    • 550 reincarnated lives of Buddha,
    • Tora,
    • Bible,
    • Scriptures of various religions,
    • Koran,
    • Hindu Vedas
    • and even in Socialist/communists modern stories.

    The virtue always prevails.

    The evil would ultimately vanish.

    Don’t try to fool yourself and the world. Even if your referendum got 100% approval vote, all the citizens, the whole world including the UN would just give the verdict that it was because of the intimidation, duress, vote rigging e.t.c.

     

    Political Prisoner, ‘Afraid of Nothing,’ Dies of TB

    Political Prisoner,

    ‘Afraid of Nothing,’ Dies of TB

    Copied from Irrawaddy By SAW YAN NAING

    A political prisoner, Win Tin, also known as Annul, a youth member of the main opposition National League for Democracy, died on Thursday in Tharrawaddy Prison in Burma, while serving a 24-year sentence of hard labor, according to a human rights group.

    Win Tin, 30, died of tuberculosis in the prison in Pegu Division, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).

    A Muslim, Win Tin was arrested in 1999 for his political activities.

    Myat Hla, the chairman of the NLD office in Pegu, said, “He [Win Tin] had been suffering from tuberculosis for a long time. We heard often that his health condition was bad, and he didn’t receive medical treatment in prison. This morning, when his family members went to see him, he had already died.”

    Win Tin is survived by his wife. He joined the NLD when he was teenager and was very active in the political movement, said Myat Hla.

    “He was afraid nothing,” he said.

    Bo Kyi, the joint secretary of the AAPP, said Win Tin had suffered from tuberculosis since 2002. He didn’t receive proper medical treatment in spite of specific requests from his family members to prison authorities, he said.

    “Medical treatment in Burmese prisons is very poor,” said Bo Kyi. “If the authorities don’t provide sufficient medical treatment, more prisoners will die in the future.”

    The military government charged Win Tin with activities destructive to the stability of the regime.

    The AAPP estimates that there are 1,864 political prisoners in Burmese prisons.