Vaclev Havel – someone who has obviously BTDT in dealing with opening societies – has a piece up at Comment is Free on Burma.
How many times and in how many places has this now happened? Worse, however, is the number of countries that find it convenient to avert their eyes and ears from the deathly silence with which this Asian country chooses to present itself to the outside world.
In Burma, the power of educated Buddhist monks – people who are unarmed and peace loving by their very nature – has risen up against the military regime. That monks are leading the protests is no great surprise to those who have taken a long-term interest in the situation in Burma.
An overwhelming number of Burma’s Buddhist monks have found it difficult to bear the central and regional governments’ efforts to corrupt their monastic orders, and to misuse the example of the monks’ self-restraint to increase the pressure on other believers. Of course, without universal and coordinated international political, economic, and media support for these brave monks, all development in Burma may quickly be put back nearly 20 years.
He goes on to excoriate the international diplomatic regime:
On a daily basis, at a great many international and scholarly conferences all over the world, we can hear learned debates about human rights and emotional proclamations in their defense. So how is it possible that the international community remains incapable of responding effectively to dissuade Burma’s military rulers from escalating the force that they have begun to unleash in Rangoon and its Buddhist temples?
For dozens of years, the international community has been arguing over how it should reform the United Nations so that it can better secure civic and human dignity in the face of conflicts such as those now taking place in Burma or Darfur, Sudan. It is not the innocent victims of repression who are losing their dignity, but rather the international community, whose failure to act means watching helplessly as the victims are consigned to their fate.
The world’s dictators, of course, know exactly what to make of the international community’s failure of will and inability to coordinate effective measures. How else can they explain it than as a complete confirmation of the status quo and of their own ability to act with impunity?
So we will stand by while diplomats sip tea and feel very, very bad about how things are going – here’s Australia’s former ambassador in Newsweek:
In 1988, faced with similar protests, the government killed an estimated 3,000 people as it reimposed control. Nineteen years later they’re still in power. If they use force again would they likely succeed again?
It could have the same result. Mind you, itâ€™s quite often not mentioned that in 1988 there was chaos on the streets. There were a lot of cases where people took the law into their own hands, and some of the deaths were of police and soldiers being summarily executed. The regime argues they were restoring order. Thatâ€™s not to disguise the fact that the troops had orders to fire, to kill, and they did. And today the troops are already deployed and ready to move whenever the order is given. Itâ€™s quite difficult to ensure that whatever action they take is going to end without [more] people dying. And thatâ€™s why I think that, given that this is all happening in slow time, there is an opportunity…maybe…to convince the military government that they ought to allow some kind of international visit.
The international diplomatic regime is badly broken and needs to be rebuilt.