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Burma- is it time for military intervention?

Anu Anand | 15:17 UK time, Friday, 28 September 2007

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To today's show --- you guessed it, Burma. If you heard Monday's programme, we spoke to pro-democracy activist Taung Ko Tang, who may have been arrested after our conversation with him, though we haven't been able to confirm this. We're still trying to find out. Meanwhile, photos of a Japanese photographer shot dead in Rangoon yesterday by Burmese forces are dominating the papers here. China has urged 'restraint'; ASEAN has called the use of force 'repulsive'; the US has imposed more sanctions; and India and the UK have criticized the generals.

There are several questions emerging from your comments on Burma:

1) Is it time for military intervention?
2) Can a military campaign work? Look at Iraq.
3) Why isn't India, the world's biggest democracy and Burma's giant neighbor, speaking out more? Do Indians care about what's happening?
4) If international leaders are willing to condemn the regime, why aren't they backing up their words with actions?
5) The UN special envoy is headed to Burma, will his visit make any difference?
6) Or maybe what's happening in Burma is nobody's business? Military action isn't practical... sanctions don't work, so it's best to maintain relations, even if it's with a military dictatorship.... look at Pakistan?

George Fernandes, former Indian defense minister and one-time Burma activist will join us live.
Soe Myint, the editor of Mizzima.com will join us from Delhi. Check out the latest news on his site: www.mizzima.com

The internet and even phone lines to Burma are being shut down, but here are a few blogs/sites to check out:

Speak to you soon,


China is the Elephant in the room as far as outside military intervention. If however India and Thailand and Malaysia moved in militarly it might work but I am sure they are all benefitting too much from the as is status quo of the situation to get involved. Also a successful Burma would be a threat economically to at least Thailand and Malaysia so its not in their interest. We lived as a family in Malaysia in the late 1950's and my Father always said that the Burmese were the nicest people he had met. What a terrible shame.
Nick Hardy.

Hi dearest Anu and to all my good friends in WHYS! Hi to all WHYS good listeners! I love your accent Anu, it's beautiful! A military intervention in Burma??? No! No! No! Only the Burmese people must act to change the situation in their country, any change imposed from the outside will lead only to disasterous results that will tear Burma a part! The change from the inside is the only solution for the crisis in Burma! Please my friends in Burma, don't do like what your brothers in Iraq did, don't sit and wait for a miracle to come and take the military regime away! Have a will to change the situation in your own country! Nobody can solve your problems for you, you're the only ones who have the solution in your hands! Taung Ko Tang, my thoughts and prayers are with you my friend! With my love!
Lubna in Baghdad!


It's pretty clear that the "Super Powers" won't go beyond their words because it is not their point of interest.There is much talk now because the anxiety is absent.I bet you,if Bush for example was interested in helping the Burmese,he would have done so.It less than no time to invade Iraq and the other interventions that were done without much debate.

Just out of curiosity. Bush has asked China to pressure the military ruler in Burma. When is somebody going to put pressure on the "military ruler" in Iraq to end the bloodshed there?
insurgent: 1 : a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government;
Are not the protesters just a "peaceful insurgency"?
Oddly enough Insurgent comes from the Latin word meaning "to surge"
Hypocrisy has to be the worlds most devastating sin.
Lord of logic


Hi WHYS Team,

The military junta in Burma isn't new to repressing protests. During the cold war such practices used to be seen as an internal matter as countries like the USA tried to distance themselves from it considering it politically unrewarding. Its allies like China used the pretext of sovereignty.

As it seems in politics, principles are set aside in favour of interests. The most realistic in reaction to what is taking place was Russia when it said that Burma didn't pose a threat to any country. All the countries reluctant to impose vigorous sanctions on the military junta are worried about their interests.

The protesters stand defenceless. They have as arms just marches and the media reporting about them. The military junta has the deadly weapons to crush them. There is one thing that can turn the soldiers into supporters of democracy is by succeeding in converting them onto fervent Buddhists, ready to obey monks and not the military. As the army didn't spare even the monks by brutally repressing them, the civilians there are likely to be in the grip of military power. There is no force to overthrow it as the outside world is divided about what action to take.

The world leaders can stand against the military because of its undemocratic practises. By they won't stand in the way of each other's interests. The USA is free to do what it likes in Iraq. Other countries are free to support which regime they like.

A revert to civilian rule is unlikely. The military are reluctant to give power. A top general can accept a return to civilian rule provided he becomes the head of state at least for two terms as it was the case in Nigeria. In Pakistan Pervez Musharraf is fighting to remain in power at whatever cost. Even if he loses the next elections he will stay the head of the army. It's a dream only. The military junta in Burma should come to a compromise for a smooth transition to civilian rules. The Head of the army should share power with democratically elected parties to allow the next elections to be run for the formation of a civilian government. But it seems that generals used to the comfort of sweeping powers will find it difficult to return to their barracks. Blood for them is a routine. They won't mind spilling as much of it as a possible to get rid of hard opponents and through violent scenes they discourage any new challenge at least for a very long time. In Burma it took this spectacular uprising almost 19 years as the latest took place in 1988.

As history show, there are people who are unfortunate. Their ordeals become just a spectacle and they go down history as a parenthesis or a food for thoughts for movie makers, writers and journalist to depict this country to the outside world. As time passes, the protests fade and then the country falls in oblivion until new sparks of bloody protests grab the headlines.
Abdelilah Boukili,
Marrakesh, Morocco


Dear 'World Have Your Say'
Re: Burma
This is either a fight to the end or another 20 years of daily repression.
The Burmese people need to come out on mass and fight this to the end - or they will be ruthlessly bound for another two generations.
Unfortunately, the world has chosen to watch rather than act. It is in the hands now of the Burmese people alone.
Dr Howard Scott
New Zealand


I am an Australian living in Asia, Singapore to be precise with mild political views & mild religious views, however feel I need to make comment on what is currently taking place in Burma.
I have been following the recent events and can't believe how little or late the world leaders of today have done to make protest or take action against this brutal dictatorship.
Is there not enough oil in the country, or have not enough people been killed, or have not enough peoples been imprisoned , have there not been enough crimes against humanity ?
What sort of country is this when the army/state police shoot and kill unarmed monks or other peaceful protesters. How many hundreds or thousand (hopefully not) of people have to die.
What does it take for the world to stand up and take action ? What will it take for China to stand up given they are meant to be an up and coming world super power, as well as the juntas closest allies officially. Does ASEAN not have the will or the strength to take action. Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia spend god knows how much on military equipment annually and have enough armed forces to put in place peace keeping force but will stand by and do nothing. Will it be left up to the Americans to take action again on behalf of the world or will Australia act as there proxy in the Asia Pac region, because no other nation or nations have the guts or respect for human liberties.
Please will the world stand up and take notice and action before it is too late, this is not an internal issue this is a Global issue.
Nicholas Burnham

All are appalled by the sight of peaceful monks and lay people being killed and wounded by soldiers in Burma.
Although China claims that it doesn't want to interfere in the internal affairs of neighbours, it is quite clear that China has been the main lifeline of the illegitimate military regime in Burma/Myanmar for many years. In the past the Communist Government of China didn't seem have any problem interfering in the "internal affairs" of Tibet, Vietnam and other neighbours and China still continues to be one of the main backers of the far away government of Sudan which is implicated in the killing of it's own citizens in Darfur. It also continues to claim large parts of NE India which border Burma/Myanmar.
The military regime in Burma/Myanmar is well armed - mainly by the China. It is clear that the Burmese army and arms are primarily used to control its own citizens. These Chinese arms are used not to protect the citizens of Burma, but to kill them.
Perhaps all freedom loving countries and people should boycott the Olympic Games in Beijing next year, because we would of course hate to interfere with China's "internal affairs"?
Chris Fynn
Thimphu, Bhutan


Hi, World Have Your Say Team,
The Chinese can't say the trouble in Burma is an internal matter when it is the Chinese themselves who sold the weapons of repression to the Generals.
The Chinese do not have the moral stature to hold the Beijing Olympics. It's time everyone outside of Burma raised their voices against the Chinese leadership's lack of action and threaten to boycott the Olympics unless the Chinese move NOW to restrain the Burmese Generals.
All the Best,
Donnamarie Leemann


for bad democracies like burma, i think the only thing that can change the situation is for the masses to get true civic education at amust and free.burmese should understand that human rights are for every human beings, monks or gangsters.
david lulasa
(kon tiki,silentPower)


I am so sorry that I can not do more than joining others to talk about the Burma.
I live in Liberia on the west coast of Africa andI try to tell everyone That I can talk to about what is going on, and a lot of people in my community are listening, and are showing concern.
If we should leave Burma and stop talking, it will be a great defeat to people fighting for their freedom all over the world.
Please let us continue to dedicate some more time to those innocent people over there.
The BBC has been doing a great Job.
Alan was talked about almost everyday on the BBC until we all saw him free.
Uzondu Esionye
Porch Internet Cafe
Monrovia, Liberia


They should protest with the army frozen! If it is non violent and people are being killed, more and more who are willing to die should come forward(See Gandhi by Richard Attenborough: We will protest by non violent satyagraha but are willing to die).
R. ashok Kumar, B.E.,M.E(Power), Mumbai, India

1) Is it time for military intervention?
hmmmm, I don't think that would solve the problem, but on the countrary create a bigger problem

2) Can a military campaign work? Look at Iraq.
I am very sceptical

3) Why isn't India, the world's biggest democracy and Burma's giant neighbor, speaking out more? Do Indians care about what's happening?
I heard on the French radio that India was signing a huge deal with the Burmese regime to sell them helicopters...
Money makes the world go round!
And does a constitution and free elections turn a country into a democracy??? I have my doubts!

4) If international leaders are willing to condemn the regime, why aren't they backing up their words with actions?
Because they don't care, because they don't want trouble with China, because democracy means a better and more honnest share of the riches of Burma which amounts to less advantages for them, because at the end of the day they are only interested in their own position and their own possessions

5) The UN special envoy is headed to Burma, will his visit make any difference?

6) Or maybe what's happening in Burma is nobody's business? Military action isn't practical... sanctions don't work, so it's best to maintain relations, even if it's with a military dictatorship....
look at Pakistan?
This is what all the world leaders secretly think and it's a shame The world should immediately recognize the government in exile as the only legimate government of Burma, call back their embassadors from Burma, isolate that regime and require that Ang Sang Su Kee would immediately recover her full freedom
Isabelle Grynberg
Antwerpen, Belgium


Mass boycott of the Chinese 2008 Olympics can resolve both Burma and Darfur. War is messy and India is a Westminister paper democracy.
Chester Mapala,
Lusaka, Zambia.


Good day,
I would just like to say that as often as Israelis make racist declarations against Muslims and Arabs, nobody in the West bats an eye. In the light of that it's rather amusing to see the shrill and bigoted reaction to Ahmadinejad's visit to New York. The people shouting him down are little better than he himself.
-Jameel Fosryth Rahman
York, PA, USA


There is no comparison to Myanmar and Iraq... The brave people of Myanmar are openly rejecting the oppressive regime that hold them hostage. A large number of Iraqi's have rejected the US lead coalition from the start, while the residents of Myanmar are pleading for immediate attention and assistance. The UN needs to push it's members to organize a multi-nation army to help prevent the death of innocents.

Ken in Cleveland


Intervene into what? Another civil war? What is happening in Burma right now is just that, a civil war. Hasn't Iraq taught anyone yet it's a bad idea to get involved in another nation's internal conflict?

I understand the feeling of helplessness at witnessing the events now unfolding, but, as harsh as this might sound, there is very little the world community can do.

The best we can do, from my perspective, is to get all sides to sit down and talk. Going in shooting isn't the answer here, who knows the chaos it might cause.
Mary in Oregon

I believe sanctions have been ineffective in most cases where they have been used. As far as buying products from Burma, I would like to become more aware of who is conducting business that benefits the Burmese government so I can make the personal choice to boycott those products.

Ultimately, the ball is in the court of the Chinese government. I believe that there should be more international pressure on China to step in. That is unlikely based on history. China armed the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's despite the massacre of a large percentage of the Cambodian population.

Burma is the next "Killing Field." Will the world exercise the same apathy?

Thank You,
Jon Davis

Why has Bush suddenly spoken out now? To divert attention from Iraq, even if only for a 1 - 2 week news cycle!
Glenn Brown
Sisters, Oregon


I am continually surprised that commentators are even suggesting that China somehow become involved in the Burma situation. Bear in mind that this is the same ruling regime that sent tanks and troops against its own people less than a generation ago. So they are not known for supporting democracy (protests). Apart from that they have a vested interest in keeping the Burmese generals in power having a great deal invested in Burma and all agreements signed with this regime and it would set a dangerous precedent in the area and give hope to separatist elements in China itself not to mention Tibet. As the BBC noted, it also impacts upon Russia. As for India, they have no interest what so ever to upsetting the region and a general apathy towards involvement in other states internal politics.


I think the most effective intervention in the situation in Burma is for everyone all over the world who cares about the Burmese people to immediately and completely boycott ALL CHINESE MADE PRODUCTS unless and until it stops protecting the military regime.
Angela Zehava
Portland, Oregon

I think that UN should send their forces now. Less talking more action is needed. Why do we talk for days about this problem when innocent people die???? I have the feeling that if there would be oil fields down there then the US would already be there. Is like in Darfur, we have a genocide going on for years and the world does not do anything to stop it.
Anna Wachnicka

Except for weak sanctions, Why isn't the United States, the "protector of freedom," intervening in the Burmese atrocities? Simple: US oil and gas companies have deals with the military strongmen.
There are good bad guys and bad bad guys. The difference seens to be measured in gallons and barrels.
If our oil interests were at stake, troops would be gathering now.
Brooklyn, New York


Is the Western press, especially the BBC, hypocritical? Comparatively, there was little, or NO strong outcry about the massacre of innocent Africans in Sharpville, 1960; Soweto in 1976, and of course, the brutal murder of Steve Biko, by the South African Apartheid regime. Paraphrasing Shakespeare's Hamlet: "The West, thy name is hypocrisy!"

British governments, either Labour, or Conservative, were silent supporters of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and Ian Smith's oppressive rule in Rhodesia for decades.

Jackson, Tennessee, U.S.A.


I want the people of Burma to continue their protest and see that the end, also what they want is given to them. I will want them to look at the Sierra Leone situation where people protested and matched to the former and Late Rebel leader Foday Sackor' which resulted to his arrest arrest. Sometimes is good for us to take our destiny in to our own hands. Am just appealing to the International Committee not to wait until they start cutting peoples hands or killing them before the intervane.

From Allen, Texas


The US supplies the majority of the fighting force for the UN and we are stretched thin enough. So to those who advocate an armed UN force go into Burma, where do they think that force will come from? Its a ridiculous idea.
Nikkoli (nickel eye)
Porland OR


Leave alone Burmese people to solve their problem, it is their struggle. We got rid off Saddam and as a result we killed over a million people. Burma is not like Ruwanda as one of your callers put it. There is a government that rules the country so let the Burmese people get rid of them. But not B52 as we did in Iraq.

Dear 'World Have Your Say'

Re: Burma

This is either a fight to the end or another 20 years of daily repression.

The Burmese people must come out on mass and fight this to the end - or they will be ruthlessly bound for another two generations.

Unfortunately, the world has chosen to watch rather than act. It is in the hands now of the Burmese people alone. Let them act.
Dr Howard Scott
New Zealand


i was opposed to united states intervention in iraq to secure oil resources
i would support united nations intervention in myanmar to secure human rights
Jesse Smith

I think that Irish caller is absolutely right about the world focusing on Israel, and ignoring other, much more horrific events. Let's not forget that the UN Human Rights Commission actually decided to single out Israel for special scrutiny, basically meaning they were planning on ignoring everything else, with only Canada objecting. Is Israel an angel? Of course not, but when you focus solely on Israel, ignore everything else, ignore much worse things, it really comes down to antisemitism, plain and simple. I've actually had acquaintances tell me to stop bringing up things like Darfur or Sri Lanka or Chechnya, because it distracted them from ranting about Israel.


Another reason why the UN focuses so much effort on Israel, and not other nations, such as Burma, is the composition. Let's face it, Muslim countries, the vast majority (excluding perhaps Turkey), hate and despise Israel. There are 57 Muslim majority member nations at the UN, and only one Jewish majority nation on earth. I have a feeling if you have that many voting members in the UN, you can influence the agenda of the UN. Talking about other issues on earth would distract from criticizing absolutely everything Israel does.


I haven't listened in weeks and now we can't have a story about Burma without interjecting palestine. I give up.
Boston MA


The world can wring its hands in sympathy with the Burmese people but the reality is that no one is going to intervene militarily on their behalf. The U.N. is not going to declare war on the regime, the U.S. is not going to invade, sanctions will take decades and in two months this story will be forgotten by the world press. The only hope is for officers within the regime to stage a coup on behalf of the civilian population.
John D. Anthony
Salem, Oregon


Hello WHYS,

I just heard the question put to a Swedish reporter, "Does it take a genocide?" This was asked in order to ascertain what it might require to cause action in Burma. The line of the question is within the idea that Israel receives far too much attention, etc. As this Swedish reporter points out, Sweden reports often on the Palestinian cause and famously in support of the Palestinians at every turn, while seeming to vilify Israel at the same time. Let us recall that in WW2, Sweden was infamously neutral, and today remains somewhat hostile to Jews, while opening its doors wide to thousands of Islamic refugees. Is there perhaps a problem with the source of information?

Burma is surrounded by powerful local nations who themselves we now learn haven't the care to know what is going on in Burma for 20 years. Israel is a strategically located democracy and is at the heart of a much older problem and is the result of a continued attempt at national and religious genocide of a people over two thousand years, Starting with Rome, continued through Christianity and culminating in WW2. THAT is why Israel is so often in the news!

I find some of the commentator's verging on outright anti-Jewish hate talk.
Mark LaRue


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