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1992: A.H.R.C. CAMPAIGN ON BURMA
/* posted 13 Apr 6:00am 1997 by drunoo@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.burma */
/* -------------" 1992: The AHRC Campaign on Burma "--------------- */
[ Following material is extract from CAMPAIGN ON BURMA prepared by Asian
Human Rights Commission in 1991/92. We received this informative document
in early 1992. This document give us a clear and precise meaning of such
terminologies as Campaign, Service and Struggle etc. in a movement.
The document is invaluable, in a historical sense, that it reflect the
situation of Burma movement in 1992, i.e. the Campaign Focus and
Directions, The Unity within the movement etcetera, etcetera.
In the years around 1991/92, there were two notable pressure campaigns
within the movement: the NCGUB which exert diplomatic pressure at the UN;
and the other NGOs which advocate trade and economic sanctions on Burma. It
may be found, over the years, that our movement on the humanitarian front
has also added another form of pressure on Burma's military regime. This
document can perhaps be used to compare the status of our movement now with
that of 1992; and to evaluate the achievements and also the shortcomings
over this period. -- U Ne Oo.]
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION: CAMPAIGN ON BURMA (1992)
Several meetings are being sponsored by international groups
supporting the struggle for democracy and peace in Burma. This is a
positive development. Coordination among support groups is
important if sufficient pressure is to be mobilised against the
military junta in Burma in order to force them to accept the
demands of the people. The Asian Human Rights Commission is also
joining in with these efforts in support of the struggle of the
SUGGESTION FOR A BURMA CAMPAIGN
For a campaign to be effective, each support group must clearly
identify a specific target which is crucial to help bring an end to
the civil war and human rights violations in the country. That
target must be one for which the support group has responsibility
and the right to speak against. The target must also be specific as
opposed to a general target such as "all international investors",
"negative government policies" etc. A specific target would be one
or two companies investing in Burma which play an important role in
propping up the military regime. Another example would be one
specific policy of the support group's government which requires
An effective campaign can be built with specific goals as well as
target dates. The target dates are important because they push us
to work towards deadlines thus procrastination is less likely.
A campaign is a series of actions designed to bring about the
desired change in the target. One letter, or one protest march does
not make a campaign. Campaign targets are usually power groups, and
they can easily fend off a few protests without trouble. A
campaign, therefore, must be a consistent set of actions, perhaps
taken daily or weekly, aimed at wearing the target down, and
forcing it to change it's position because of pressure.
Support group members involved in the campaign must be willing to
personally commit themselves to taking these daily or weekly
actions until the desired results are achieved. They must commit
themselves to writing a weekly letter, or making a daily phone call
to the target, calling for change. They should do this until the
change takes place. It is through persistence that the powerful
will be worn down and see the need to reconsider their positions.
Service is assistance to people in struggle to help them survive.
It is not struggle. It means providing of food, medical assistance,
education, etc. for those involved in the struggle. Care must be
taken with service activities for they can become a focus of our
efforts and resources that the important support we need to give to
the struggle is lost.
Struggle involves actions carefully chosen which move a conflict
towards resolution. It is different from service in that it does
not simply help in survival, but is aimed at bringing about a
positive change. Struggle is active, creative, courageous and
tenacious. Service is part of struggle only if it helps to get
information and ideas for the struggle and if it helps to focus the
struggle more clearly on important targets. If service does not do
this, it become an obstacle to struggle as it distracts from the
Struggle is effective and creative action by those directly
involved in confronting the structures of oppression. It is aimed
at a specific target, in coordination with other groups carrying
out support actions in their respective areas of responsibility.
Solidarity support is crucial to sustain the struggle. Support
groups do not win conflicts but help to pave the way for the
oppressed to sustain their struggle.
BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE SITUATION IN BURMA
A full analysis of the issues affecting the civil war in Burma
requires many volumes of writing. Some important points summarized
below will help to understand the Burma situation.
A. The hold of the Burmese military over the people is due to the
economic factor. The army, which numbers about 280,000 (some report
indicate that the SLORC wants to increase it to at least 500,000
fighting men), is not sympathetic to the military rulers or their
policies. Most members of the armed forces are poor people with
little education. They have few other avenues to earn money to
sustain their families and therefore, continue to serve in the army
for economic reasons and also, because of fear of reprisals against
their families in case of desertion.
Another reason the soldiers remain "faithful" to the leaders in the
very effective anti-ethnic minority education imparted to the
people. The soldiers are constantly indoctrinated with propaganda
that the minority groups are attempting to tear the Union apart.
Consequently, many sincerely believe this and continue the fight to
"save the Union".
There is virtually, no support of the masses for the military
leadership. The May 1990 elections proved this. People are however,
unable to stage another major uprising because the military is now
better equipped. Moreover, the majority of the people are now
mostly concerned with their survival.
Foreign exchange which is essential for the needs of the people is
used by the military to buy weapons, that have to be replaced and
upgraded regularly, to keep the people under subjugation.
B. Some countries, especially Thailand and China invest heavily in
Burma, because they can make quick profits. The two countries lead
the way for foreign investments in Burma.
C. Other countries, such as the USA, Germany, England, Australia,
etc., have imposed certain sanctions against Burma but at the same
time private companies from these countries invest heavily in
Burma, especially in the field of oil exploration and production.
The governments of these countries have taken a critical stance
against the Burmese military junta which is a positive move.
However, it is naive to believe that they, do not have ulterior
motives in adopting such double standards.
D. Money flowing into Burma from the foreign investments finds its
way into the hands of the military leadership. With this money they
purchase modern weapons. The people have therefore benefited little
from the foreign investments.
E. Some UN agencies such as the UNDP plan on carrying out large
"development" projects inside Burma. These projects will mainly
benefit the SLORC who will use the UN support to legitimize its
power in the eyes of the people. UN money for drug eradication is
also being sought by SLORC. This indeed ironical as SLORC is not
sincere about eradicating opium cultivation.
F. ASEAN countries from a protective barrier around Burma. They
attempted to deflect criticism saying that change in Burma is not
easy because the SLORC intransigence attitude and therefore a
"constructive engagement" is the most useful way to encourage the
Burmese military junta to democratize. They ignore the voice of the
Burmese people expressed through the 1990 elections. ASEAN
defensive posture is based on economic interests and considerations
as well as the fear of facing similar criticisms from the
international community with regard to their own countries.
"Western intervention" is therefore, used as a cliche to justify
their position. There is little campaigning in ASEAN countries by
NGOs to protest against the so called "constructive engagement"
policy which contributes to the suppression of the Burmese people.
G. SLORC is clever. Through careful planning and scheming it keeps
on the offensive. Every move, and action is cunningly planned and
designed to give maximum benefits.
H. SLORC has control over the economy, and through its manipulates
the country and maintains its hold over power.
I. SLORC has no intention of handing over power to the elected
representatives of the people unless they are able to control them.
Thus they continue to arrest, and harass opposition party workers
and groups who dare to speak out. Through arrests, torture,
killings and fear, the SLORC continues to hold on to power in the
J. The tensions between the Ethnic Minorities and the Ethnic
Burmans will not vanish. Suspicions and misunderstandings have been
ingrained amongst the people for far too long. The Ethnic Burmans
believe the minorities want to break up the Union, and therefore
often harbour a deep prejudices against the minorities. On the
other hand the Ethnic Minorities are suspicious that the Burmans
want to destroy them, their way of life and their culture. Ethnic
problems are not likely to be resolved by simply setting up a
Federal State structure. The prejudices and misunderstandings built
over a period of time have to be identified, and dealt with one at
K. The struggle against SLORC has, for the most part, remained a
defensive one. Reaction against oppression from both Burmese groups
and international support groups has been more of a watch word
than actions for prevention. This is best illustrated by reactions
against forced repatriation of Burmese students in Thailand, a few
protests against foreign investments etc. Almost all of these are
reactions to events that have taken place. Few offensive campaigns
in the ASEAN region have been launched which could help put the
initiative in the hands of the oppressed.
L. Thailand and other ASEAN members continue to deflect
international criticism of their stance on Burma claiming that the
criticism amounts to "Western Intervention". This situation will
continue as long as there is no loud and persistent voice coming
from people/groups within ASEAN challenging the ASEAN position and
forcing it to change.
M. International support for the Burma movement has been in the
form of service rather than in the form of struggle and campaign.
SOME POINTERS FOR A BURMA CAMPAIGN
Although there are more and more international groups showing
interest in supporting the struggle for justice and peace in Burma,
there is little focus of their energies and resources. Thus, a lot
of "good deeds" are done, though not necessarily resulting in
support for the struggle. At the same time, perhaps there are too
many groups who want to coordinate the international struggle,
rather than take their cues from the Burmese movement itself.
A common voice of the various Burma groups is difficult to hear.
This is due to the historical process under Ne Win's "divide and
rule law" and because of the divisions among the groups accentuated
by international involvement which often selectively choose certain
groups to work with and ignores some others.
Sanctions imposed against the Burmese military junta by the USA,
and EC countries are helpful, but need to be strengthened. These
will not worry the Burmese leaders too much if similar action is
not taken by local groups inside ASEAN nations as well.
PRIORITY FOR ACTIONS
* The primary demand must be the release of all political
prisoners. This should be done before power is turned over to
the elected representatives since all outspoken and courageous
opposition leaders are either imprisoned or in exile. SLORC may
agree to hand over power if it is confident it can retain
control over the remaining elected representatives. Therefore, it
is essential that all political prisoners be immediately
released so that power can truly be handed over to the elected
representatives of the people.
* The second demand, which is equally important is a cease-fire
and the withdrawal of Burmese troops from ethnic areas in order
to end hostilities and pave the way for an end to the civil war.
* Once above two demands are realized, power should be immediately
transferred to the elected representatives so that they can
begin the task of national reconciliation.
The campaigns suggested below should focus on the priority demands
Action for a ban on economic investments is necessary to achieve
the release of political prisoners and bring about a cease-fire.
Such actions can be linked to human rights concerns, environmental
concerns, nonviolent concerns etc. If SLORC can be challenged
economically, they may be forced to drawback atleast a little, and
this would give the Burmese movement more space in which to develop
their campaign. Therefore:
A. Every international support groups should analyze carefully what
role their own country is playing politically and economically in
* The should identify a few companies investing in Burma which are
crucial to the struggle.
* They can then develop an effective campaign against those
companies setting goals for a change within a specific time
frame. Campaigns should be aggressive in approach involving
daily mailings of protest letters, continuous phone calls of
protest, weekly picketing etc.
* Support groups should research the background material they can
find on companies from their country that are investing in
Burma. The information should be sent to groups like B.U.R.M.A.
that have a documentation center and need the information for
research and drawing up strategies.
* Research also needs to be done on three countries which have a
special relationship with SLORC, namely Thailand, China and
Singapore. Friends and supporters in academic communities around
the world can do research on these countries to find out their
weak points in order to plan effective campaigns. For example,
Singapore trades in arms with SLORC. I there some Singapore law
which prohibits this and can be used to challenge Singapore ?
Also China is one of the major suppliers of military equipment
to SLORC. It is difficult to obtain complete information on
this. Help is needed to do research on China's relationship with
B. Every international group should identify specific policies of
their governments towards Burma which need to be changed.
* They should develop an effective and aggressive campaign to
pressure the government to change those policies, setting
specific goals and time periods.
* Special efforts should be made to collect up-to-date information
on these government policies. This information should be shared
to facilitate analysis and strategy formation.
C. Each support group should carefully evaluate all "service"
activities including education, training, financial support,
scholarships, etc., to determine if these are "good deeds" which
may be infact obstructing the process of liberation in some ways.
D. Check to see in what way the "service" activities might be
better done to provide support to the struggle for liberation. For
example: How is information gathered through the "service" activity
used for the struggle ? Is it systematically distributed, or is it
kept for the groups own personal use ?
E. Each group could identify one issue inside Burma, i.e. one
political prisoner, a community being resettled, a minority village
being harassed, etc., and organize to carry out a persistent and
effective campaign around that issue. They should be committed to
continue the campaign until positive changes emerge.
* On the political front, sanctions already imposed by some
countries should be encouraged and strengthened. This is especially
important in case of sanctions against military shipments to Burma.
Each country should organize a campaign to pressure their
governments to set up economic sanctions until there are some basic
changes in human rights situation.
F. Groups should study ways in which they can help pressure ASEAN
nations, especially Thailand to review ASEAN attitude towards
Burma. ACtivities such as the proposed boycott of Thai
International could be effective if very specific goals are set.
At the same time, such campaign could totally fail if there is no
clear voice from within Thailand supporting the campaign and the
G. The UN and its various agencies play an important role in
helping to bring about change in Burma. The UNDP has plans for
support of large "development" projects in Burma, UNICEF is also
working there and the UN drug agency is also involved. All of these
involvements should end until SLORC turns over power to the people.
All member countries of the UN have the right to get information
about these involvements, and to express their concern. Local
campaign can be developed to call on the UN to withdraw support of
any kind for the SLORC, and to remove SLORC from the UN seat as it
does not legally represent the people.
Campaign notes prepared in conjunction with Burma Rights Movement
for Action (BURMA) & Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
/* Endreport */
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