Fri 30 Jun 2006
Filed under: News,Opinion
Washington continues to stand in solidarity with the oppressed Burmese people and in calling for the regime to free political prisoners and take political reform seriously.
Last year, US President George W Bush received at the White House Charm Tong, a Shan activist living in exile. It was a happy meeting and gave encouragement to Burmese at home and abroad.
Burmese dissidents and activists, dismayed by the persistent support given to the Burmese regime by its two giant neighbors, China and India, are always encouraged by Washington’s tough talk and sanctions policy.
The regime remains obdurate, however, turning a deaf ear to Washington’s tough talk. We think it may well have reason for doing so, for the world champion of democracy and human rights needs first of all to put its own house in order.
It could start with Guantanamo, the prison camp that is the cause of so much dissension between the US and much of the rest of the world, including its closest allies. A US Supreme Court ruling this week that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military trials for a handful of Guantanamo Bay detainees dealt a blow to the Washington administration.
EU nations, governments around the world, London-based Amnesty International, human rights defenders and critics of the Bush administration have long been calling for the closure of the US prison camp.
Guantanamo is not the only ugly side of US government policy. In 2004, the photos of US soldiers abusing captives in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq revealed the inhumane treatment meted out to Iraqi prisoners and severely harmed American goals in Iraq.
The press is also under pressure as the New York Times published stories of secret anti-terrorism programs run by the Bush administration. Critics accused the newspaper of being unpatriotic, and some even suggested it should be indicted under the Espionage Act. Indeed, the wiretapping program, prison abuses and stories of Guantanamo Bay detainees are alarming.
Burmese generals are surely reading with glee reports of Washington’s double standards, well aware that criticism of their own abuses consequently carries less weight. The state-run press report assiduously on American involvement in Iraq, keeping count of US casualties, highlighting Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo abuses and ridiculing the US failure to find those â€œweapons of mass destruction.â€ The regime is gloating.
Opposition groups within and outside Burma favor increased pressure and tougher sanctions against the generals. Inside Burma, many opponents of the military regime genuinely hoped US troops would come to topple the Burmese dictators after they finished with Saddam Hussein.
Burmese who appreciate Washington’s efforts to restore democracy to Burma are baffled; the Burmese generals, on the other hand, are smirking smugly.