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Comment's on Senate Hearing on Burma

How it Could work -- Comments by Tom Lacey, Ph.D.

I watched this senate hearing tonight. The State Department spokesperson, Scot Marciel, did not have much to say of substance. State Dept Video of Testimony

The best speakers were Aung Din, Policy Director, Co-founder U.S. Campaign for Burma and Tom Malinowski, Washington Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch. Senator Boxer took up Aung Din's call fro a UN resolution condemning the military Junta to stop killing and release prisoners, even if it is vetoed by China or Russia.

Tom Malinowski called for more targeted sanctions against the military Junta and their families, to seize the bank accounts in Singapore and Dubai and take away their credit cards. Senator Boxer also discussed closing the loophole in which Chevron still does $500 million worth of business with the Burma regime. This was grandfathered in when the sanctions were imposed in the early 90?s. Tom suggested that Chevron would have to pay a $500 million penalty for canceling its contract but Senator Boxer said this was OK. If you are going to take away their bank accounts anyway, why worry about penalties?

Senators Webb and Kerry queried Scott Marciel hard, who in turn resorted to the usual Bush administration line that it was very difficult to really do anything diplomatically, to pressure China, India and Thailand to impose real sanctions to cut off Burma. They all agreed that US sanctions by itself were ineffective.

When asked why the US did not seek a six party talk type initiative, Scot said that the Burmese government was not really interested in talking with anyone, although he did say that the US was in constant contact with them, to put daily pressure on them. This does not make a lot of sense to me.

It occurred to me that there needs to be a foreign mission to Burma to meet with the people there and investigate human rights abuses on an ongoing basis. This is the only thing that can stop the immediate secret violence. Arrests have increased now that the UN envoy has left. Incidentally, Scot Marciel said that the US wants to wait until the UN envoy gives his report before deciding what to do next in the UN. Very weak and time consuming, while people are dying.

Sending envoys to visit the military leaders is not so effective as creating an international presence on the ground. Why not have Chevron executives do this, as they are already working with the government. They could be our human rights watchdogs and advocates. They would be protected by Black Water, the private security firm, who say they never lost anyone they protect, not even in Iraq.

Senator Webb questioned the effectiveness of sanctions working anywhere, save for against South Africa, because everyone was united. He pointed out that the most repressive regimes are the most isolated. Scott Marciel countered that this was because Myanmar wanted to be isolated. So why not force them to let observers in, right? Scott defended the status quo of not really knowing what to do, except for hard diplomatic work.

It was commented that if Myanmar had nuclear weapons designs, we would do something right away. As it is the regime finances its activities largely by opium, where it is one of the biggest producers. The US arrested Noriega for drug trafficking.

It was also point out that the military consists of 450,000 troops in a population of over 50 million, which is quite large. This shows that it is very unpopular. Any threat of real force could quickly bring down the government. Dictatorships are fragile, and this one is more and more fragile, which is why it is more dangerous.

I think that if there were a real monitoring of human rights in Burma, with UN or other international observers on the ground, the government would be powerless to stop public demonstrations and would soon be forced to negotiate a democratic settlement. They would most likely flee the country. And why not arrest the family members who have already fled to Dubai? If the government shot the observers, then peacekeepers could be sent in to protect them. At some point the government would collapse.

Obviously, what is really needed right now is for the UN to send in peace observers as well as humanitarian workers. In exchange for this, trade sanctions could be relaxed except for arms and the targeted financial moves against the Junta and their families in Singapore and elsewhere. The people should eat while the military should have its money taken away.

But I would not leave such efforts to send in observers up to the UN. Corporate America should step up to the plate. Laura Bush could lead the team. What could they do to her, put her under house arrest? She could keep Aung San Suu Kyi company. Such a delegation could be accompanied by American monks and other volunteers for peace.

Of course, we know what Scott Marciel would say, that they would not be interested in inviting us in. But this is where China comes in. China got the Junta to let in the UN envoy. Surely it could get them to let in Laura Bush leading a peace delegation. To deny this would be cowardice.

Tom Lacey 10-4-7

About this Meetup Group


before the


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Time: 2:30 PM
Place: 419 The Dirksen Senate Office Building
Presiding: Senator Boxer

Panel 1:
Mr. Scot Marciel
Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Department of State
Panel 2:
Michael J. Green
Senior Adviser
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Washington, DC
Mr. Aung Din
Policy Director, Co-Founder
U.S. Campaign for Burma
Washington, DC
Mr. Tom Malinowski
Washington Advocacy Director
Human Rights Watch
Washington, DC
... Additional witnesses may be added

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Burma update from BPF, and films and books November 1, 2007 4:34 AM Tom L.
Situation 'murky' in Myanmar (from pbs) October 27, 2007 10:14 AM Tom L.
Recent Petitions from Burma October 26, 2007 11:54 PM Tom L.
Steep decline in oil production brings risk of war October 22, 2007 11:45 PM Tom L.
full horror of Burmese junta's repression October 15, 2007 12:35 AM Tom L.
Totla Denial: A Documentary October 13, 2007 7:46 AM Tom L.
How China Got Religion October 11, 2007 11:05 PM Tom L.
Satements by Countries October 7, 2007 11:47 PM Tom L.
Security Council 10-5-7 October 8, 2007 12:00 AM Tom L.
Scot Marciel's Senate Statement on Burma October 4, 2007 11:49 PM Tom L.
U.S. Policy Regarding Burma October 5, 2007 1:03 AM Tom L.
Comment's on Senate Hearing on Burma October 5, 2007 6:55 PM Tom L.

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