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Soros on Myanmar

Updated On: Dec 15, 2006

Philanthropist George Soros in his visit to Indonesia recently urged Indonesia, a non-permanent Security Council member, to back the United Nation’s (UN) resolution on Myanmar.

The United States is seeking a UN security council resolution to promote democratic reforms and press the military regime to promote reconciliation with Aung San Suu Kyi. At a discussion with the Indonesian Parliament caucus on Myanmar in Jakarta, Soros said, “The military junta is completely repressive and inefficient and has brought suffering to most people living in poverty. ASEAN’s influence in Myanmar has been weakening since India and China have their influence to back up the regime for their own interests.”

The ASEAN governments have indeed acknowledged their limited ability in nudging Myanmar towards political reforms.  Especially on the fate of Myanmarese human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said, “"During the ASEAN Summit and ministrial meeting level in June, 2005, our stance was clear, namely, that we let Myanmar do what they wanted. Hopefully they contacted the UN through the UN Deputy Secretary General. But ASEAN has no interest in the issue anymore.”   The UN Special Envoy, Mr Gambari, had already visited Myanmar twice to take up the issue on release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Attention is now turned towards India and China to see how they would use their influence in Myanmar.  India has reportedly offered a multi-dollar military aid package to Myanmar. The package included counter insurgency helicopters, avionics upgrades of Myanmar’s Russian and Chinese-made fighter planes and naval surveillance aircraft. the Myanmar military has not been able to obtain new military technology due to the sanctions by the United States and the European Union but it has been able to get around the sanctions through ‘friendly’ neighbours such as India and China.

Despite Human Rights Watch’s condemnation of India’s offer and call for the Indian government to “cease its support for the Burmese military, halt arms sales and press the [Myanmar] government to stop its attacks on civilians”, the Indian government is not likely to change its stance. The Indian government is vying with the Chinese government over access to Myanmar’s rich energy resources and is keen to improve relations with Myanmar. In the meantime, the people of Myanmar will continue to suffer.

Occasional skirmishes along the Thai-Myanmar border also highlighted the continued security problems posed by the Myanmar regime to its neighbours.  The Thai military is currently monitoring the situation in Myanmar very closely, as there have been reports of clashes near the Thai Poona village in the Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang District. The Myanmar government troops are reportedly massing for an attack on the Shan State Army (SSA). Thai Major-General Wannatip Wongwai, commander of the Pha Muang Task Force warned that there would be intensified drug smuggling. The chairman of the Thai-Burma Chamber of Commerce, Boontham Tipprasong has also expressed concerned that the skirmish might affect tourism in Chiang Mai.

Sources:

Soros Urges RI Support for UN Myanmar Resolution (Jakarta Post, 13 December 2006)

Border Clashes Draw Attention (Bangkok Post, 13 December 2006)

Burma Strife/ Chiang Mai Tourism Fall Out; Worries After Fighting Erupt Close to Border (Bangkok Post, 12 December 2006)

The Big Sleep in Burma (The Nation, 12 December 2006)

Minister Wirajuda: ASEAN Apathetic Over Aung Sun [sic] Kyi Case (Antara, 11 December 2006)

HRW: India’s Aid for Burma ‘Going Too Far’ (The Nation, 9 December 2006)

India’s Military Aid for Burma Under Fire (Financial Times, 8 December 2006)