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Evan Burton


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  1. 1. Burma - should the UN send a multinational military force in to remove the current government?

    • Yes
    • No

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This is only tangentially related to conspiracies, but I thought it might be relevant here:

Should the US / the UN / the Western nations / democratic nations be sending in a military force to remove the current government of Burma and install a democratic government?

What are the pros and cons of action / inaction?

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I'm quite possibly wrong, but I think China has been starting to get very upset with Burma and the way they are conducting their internal politics.

I suspect we might see China sanctions against Burma in the not too distant future.

The US has frozen Burmese assets offshore, haven't they?

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Guest Stephen Turner

I voted yes, with the important proviso's that EVERYTHING, short of physical intervention is tried first, and secondly, once the task is completed the interventionists leave,once the business of running the Country has been Democratically decided.

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I voted yes, with the important proviso's that EVERYTHING, short of physical intervention is tried first, and secondly, once the task is completed the interventionists leave,once the business of running the Country has been Democratically decided.

Agreed. That is why I can appreciate Peter's position but not quite agree with it. Try everything first - diplomatic talks, sanctions, etc - then if that fails, the threat of military action. With some people, you have to have the threat of force because otherwise they will simply ignore you. Perhaps they would listen to China, etc, but who knows? So far the Western world just seems to be content to tell them "You really should not be doing this. Really - it's bad. Please stop it or we will get quite angry", and the junta ignores them.

If military action (I think I'd prefer to call it a police action) is required, then it must be a multinational force, under the control of the UN, and with clearly defined goals: for instance, protection of the civilian populace from retribution from the Burmese military, supervision of existing government functions until free and fair elections can be held, supervision of elections, etc.

I don't really have the knowledge of the situation to make an informed judgment, but do you think the existing junta should be subjected to any criminal prosecution? My initial assessment is no; just get a democratically elected government back into place. Correct the situation, and forget any revenge.

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I voted ‘no’. One problem is - who is to carry out the military intervention? To have any hope of doing good the force would need to be overwhelming (5 airborne divisions of ‘blue berets’ perhaps?) China and Russia would veto any serious attempt to topple the Burmese military junta.

I’m not against military intervention on principle: UN intervention in the Congo in the 1960’s, and UN/NATO intervention in Yugoslavia in the 1990’s probably prevented far worse disaster, although even in these cases there remains a reasonable doubt: the fog of war always seems to become a veritable pea-souper when predicting what will happen after a military intervention, and even in working out whether there has been an improvement when it’s all over.

Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in the world, and consists of 8 very distinct ethnic groups. The army held Burma together at Independence in 1948. The army commander was Aung San, which is one of the reasons why his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi is highly revered. During the early years of independence the only modern organisation in the country was the army. The army may still be all that holds it together: in the elections that Aung San Suu Kyi won, 20 political parties contested the election on platforms of ethnicity, hardly a sign of the development of a healthy democracy.

I think perhaps it’s time the Anglo-Saxon ‘club bouncers’ of the global community – I am referring to nation-states here - accepted that the tough act, even when it’s carried through, really doesn’t work anymore in the way it did in the 1940’s (in Burma amongst other places). Like club bouncers everywhere these days - they need sensitivity training.

This sensitivity training has always been available from Scandinavian peace institutes. In the 1970’s Johan Galtung of the International Peace Research Institute at Oslo came up with the idea of having organisations that would ‘manage’ regional conflicts. The idea would have been, for example, that a Middle Eastern organisation would have included all the Middle Eastern states including Israel, and the African one would have included South Africa. The rules would have been that your country could belong to only one of these regional institutions. In a less planned way than he envisaged, I think this kind of thing has happened, and has helped make the world a slightly less violent place.

Although Myanmar must be one of the most brutal regimes in the world, its neighbours unfortunately don’t see it that way. If China and Thailand imposed tough sanctions alongside other nations, we would, I think, see a fairly instant mellowing of the military regime and a willingness to engage with Myanmar’s politicians.

However, on another front, for a few dollars more we could probably get a really powerful regional intervention force in Darfur, where the African troops are prepared to do the fighting, and where the government of Sudan itself recognises, at last, that it could do better and wants their help.

Edited by Norman Pratt
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This is only tangentially related to conspiracies, but I thought it might be relevant here:

Should the US / the UN / the Western nations / democratic nations be sending in a military force to remove the current government of Burma and install a democratic government?

What are the pros and cons of action / inaction?

Before taking a position on Burma, I’d urge readers to do some background reading. British and American motives for urging a change of regime in Burma are spurious, and their pretence at moral outrage just that, a pretence.

A short guide, then, to what has really happened in post-war Burma; and who really did it.

First, let us look at the present. For a selection of recent pieces in the Guardian detailing powerful British business interests doing very nicely out of the thuggish junta, follow this link:


By way of demolishing the myth that the West – I here include India very much within that grouping – has not been intervening military in Burma, see the following piece in this morning’s Guardian:

Burmese rebels accuse India of betrayal

34 men in secret trial deny being arms smugglers

Case highlights growing trade links with Rangoon

Randeep Ramesh in New Delhi

Monday October 8, 2007, p.22

Thirty-four men who are being tried in secret by India, accused of being arms smugglers, are Burmese anti-junta rebels who were once backed by the Indian army, say human rights activists who are demanding their freedom.

The Indian army says the men, who belong to the Arakan ethnic minority that is fighting the Burmese army, were captured by Indian security forces in February 1998, along with a cache of arms and weapons, in the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

New Delhi claimed Operation Leech had smashed a group of gunrunners who had been aiding anti-Indian separatists. However the men say they are Karen National Union (KNU) and National Unity Party of Arakan (Nupa) rebels who were fighting Burma's junta and who had been provided with arms and a sanctuary by India.

The Indian authorities held the men in jail for six and a half years before charges were brought. Now the trial is taking place in secret - no reporters are allowed and the public has been banned.

The case has become a cause célèbre among India's pro-democracy activists, especially since the uprising in Burma earlier this month. "We have to ask our government why Burma's freedom fighters have been imprisoned in India like this when people are taking to the streets in Rangoon for freedom," said Nandita Haskar, a civil rights lawyer who is campaigning for the men's release.

Their case is supported by a retired Indian intelligence officer and the leadership of the two anti-junta groups, which are based in Thailand but which had close dealings with New Delhi until Operation Leech.

The men say they were double-crossed by an Indian army colonel named Grewal, who was in the pay of the junta. The army says it has never heard of the colonel.

"These people are not gun runners, they are our men," said Khin Maung of Nupa. "They were promised a camp in the Andaman islands by this colonel, but he took them there and they were [either] captured [or] shot."

During the 1990s, India began to reverse its historic stand against the junta and to jettison its pro-democracy links. Since Operation Leech, it has emerged as Burma's second largest export market, after Thailand. The Indian defence establishment now trains and supplies Burma's armed forces. India is also in a race with China to acquire gas reserves off Burma's coast.

DB Nandi, a former Indian intelligence officer who worked in Burma, said he suspected that New Delhi had too much at stake to allow the truth to be told. "This whole thing was designed to smash the revolt of the Arakanese. These people were not prejudicial to the security interests of India. But they were butchered and imprisoned," he said.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

India, I hasten to add, is merely following in the great tradition of armed (and murderous) Anglo-American intervention in Burma. Among the highlights of this brutal and disgusting strategy:

A British claque – including prominent Tory MPs, a prominent right-wing journalist, military men, the local British Council rep., etc. – organised the assassination of Aung San, the Burmese independence leader, and six colleagues, on 19 July 1947. For a brilliant investigation of the case, see: Kin Oung. Who Killed Aung San? (Bangkok: White Lotus Company Ltd., expanded second edition, 1996).

For a sustained attempt to duck the question of whether this British claque was, in essence, MI6, see Fergal Keane’s “Save us from our friends,” The Guardian, Saturday, 19 July 1996, The Week section, p.5. The piece is nevertheless overwhelmingly supportive of Kin Oung’s book, and well worth a look. It was published to accompany a Keane-fronted BBC2 documentary, “Who Really Killed Aung San?,” shown at 1915hrs that same evening.

For CIA intervention in post-war Burma, most notably in support of Kuomintang opium armies, see Robert H. Taylor’s Foreign and Domestic Consequences of the KMT Intervention in Burma (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Data Paper 93, Southeast Asia Program Department of Asian Studies: July 1973). Successive US ambassadors railed against US support for the KMT; and successive US presidents vowed – and tried – to terminate that aid. To no avail.

Why would a President Clinton (Hilary) or Obama obtain compliance from an unreformed CIA that defied Eisenhower, then Kennedy?

As for who, in 1962, really installed Ne Win and the crowd of military gangsters whose successors now rule Burma, we have been fed a great deal of pap about about the alleged “leftism” of the junta. To give a concrete example: Ne Win’s adopted son, and quasi-nemesis, Tin U, was trained by the CIA on the Pacific island of Saipan in the 1950s. Tin U was appointed head of the MIS by Win in 1972. (Kin Oung. Who Killed Aung San?, p.82).

You will also find reference to the training Israel afforded Burmese military high-flyers pre-1962 in William C. Johnstone’s Burma’s Foreign Policy: A Study in Neutralism (Harvard UP, 1963), p.327, n19. It would appear that Israel’s military was almost as close to the Burmese soldier-gangsters as it would soon become to South Africa's senior military men.


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Wow - a lot of interesting things to ponder between Norman and Paul. It's hardly a 'cut & dried' situation, is it?

How could we improve the situation in Burma? Or is it not our place, and we should 'bug off' from their internal affairs?

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There is an International Court that could try the Generals in abstentia and issue arrest warrents if needed. Then and only then would I approve of attempts to arrest them, if no War were involved. I hate the Generals dictatorship, and hope the democracy movement will prevail, but intervention if done wrong and illegally will only make matters worse. Long ago all major countries should have frozen the Generals assets; stopped trade with Burma and put diplomatic pressure on them, and arrested any of the Generals if they left the country to travel. Verbal support for the Democracy Movement will also do a lot. War will not.

John Laughland has written a number of excellent pieces on the farce that is victor's justice - sorry, read "international law" and the Hague. Links to three of them:




For a criticial look at who and what Laughland represents, try this link:


I would be genuinely astonished if the CIA did not know, as in the case of Allende, precisely where the junta's bank accounts are, and what's in them. After all, the Agency used Ne Win et al to destroy the pro-neutralist Burmese civilian government in 1962. Langley set the generals up in business.

We should also be clear about the consequence of a US-orchestrated "democratic revolution": It will lead, as intended, to the much more intensive exploitation of Burma's rich natural resources (from oil to militarily strategic minerals); the creation of a privileged, US-controlled business and financial elite; the ruthless exploitation of a cheap, abundant and non-unionised labour force etc. There will be an upside in some or all of those developments: greater wealth, freedom, improved healthcare etc. But let us not harbour any illusions that a genuine democracy will be created; or that Western intervention is anything other than self-interested. After all, how can one trust a US administration which twice stole its own elections?

Trying the puppets is good theatre. Trying the puppet-masters is justice.


Edited by Paul Rigby
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  • 3 weeks later...
Before taking a position on Burma, I’d urge readers to do some background reading. British and American motives for urging a change of regime in Burma are spurious, and their pretence at moral outrage just that, a pretence.

Recent speech by John Pilger on the subject: http://www.antiwar.com/pilger/?articleid=11822

The Hypocrites Who Say They Back Democracy in Burma

by John Pilger

This is John Pilger's address to a London meeting, 'Freedom Writ Large', organized by PEN and the Writers Network of Burma, on October 25.

Thank you PEN for asking me to speak at this very important meeting tonight. I join you in paying tribute to Burma's writers, whose struggle is almost beyond our imagination. They remind us, once again, of the sheer power of words. I think of the poets Aung Than and Zeya Aung. I think of U Win Tin, a journalist, who makes ink out of brick powder on the walls of his prison cell and writes with a pen made from a bamboo mat – at the age of 77. These are the bravest of the brave.

And what honor they bring to humanity with their struggle; and what shame they bring to those whose hypocrisy and silence helps to feed the monster that rules Burma.

I had planned tonight to read from my last interview with Aung San Suu Kyi, but I decided not to – because of something Suu Kyi said to me when I last spoke to her. "Be careful of media fashion," she said. "The media like this sentimental version of life that reduces everything down to personality. Too often this can be a distraction."

I thought about that, and how typically self effacing she was, and how right she was.

In my view, the greatest distraction is the hypocrisy of those political figures in the democratic West, who claim to support the Burmese liberation struggle. Laura Bush and Condoleezza Rice come to mind.

"The United States," said Rice, "is determined to keep an international focus on the travesty that is taking place in Burma."

What she is less keen to keep a focus on is that the huge American company, Chevron, on whose board of directors she sat, is part of a consortium with the junta and the French company, Total, that operates in Burma's offshore oil fields. The gas from these fields is exported through a pipeline that was built with forced labor and whose construction involved Halliburton, of which Vice President Cheney was Chief Executive.

For many years, the Foreign Office in London promoted business as usual in Burma. When I interviewed Suu Kyi I read her a Foreign Office press release that said, "Through commercial contacts with democratic nations such as Britain, the Burmese people will gain experience of democratic principles."

She smiled sardonically and said, "Not a bit of it."

In Britain, the official public relations line has changed, but the substance of compliance and collusion has not. British tour firms – like Orient Express and Asean Explorer – are able to make a handsome profit on the suffering of the Burmese people. Aquatic – a sort of mini Halliburton – has its snout in the same trough, together with Rolls Royce and all those posh companies that make a nice earner from Burmese teak.

When the last month's uprising broke out, Gordon Brown referred to the sanctity of what he called "universal principles of human rights". He has said something similar a letter sent to this meeting tonight. It is his theme of distraction. I urge you not be distracted.

When did Brown or Blair ever use their close connections with business – their platforms at the CBI and in the City London – to name and shame these companies that make money on the back of the Burmese people? When did a British prime minister call for the European Union to plug the loopholes of arms supply to Burma, stopping, for example, the Italians from supplying military equipment? The reason no doubt is that the British government is itself one of the world's leading arms suppliers, especially to regimes at war. Tonight (October 25) the Brown government has approved the latest American prelude to its attack on Iran and the ensuing horror and bloodshed.

When did a British prime minister call on its ally and client, Israel, to end its long and sinister relationship with the Burmese junta. Or does Israel's immunity and impunity also cover its supply of weapons technology to Burma and its reported training of the junta's most feared internal security thugs? Of course, that is not unusual. The Australian government – so vocal lately in its condemnation of the junta – has not stopped the Australian Federal Police from training Burma's internal security forces in at the Australian-funded Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation in Indonesia.

There are many more of these grand, liberal hypocrites; and we who care for freedom in Burma should not be distracted by the posturing and weasel pronouncements of our leaders, who themselves should be called to account as accomplices – unless and until their fine words are matched by deeds that make a genuine difference and they themselves stop destroying lives. We owe that vigilance and that truth to Aung San Suu Kyi, to Burma's writers and to all the other bravest of the brave.

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