Mizzima: (Article) Voodoo Politics

Mizzima News mizzima at ndf.vsnl.net.in
Tue Mar 23 21:48:34 EST 2004

                             Voodoo Politics

Bo Bo Kyaw Nyein
Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)

March 23, 2004

Irrawaddy, one of the most respected Burmese media organizations wrote
in their editorial on August 2000 edition about the lack of motivation
and frustration among Burmese activists and dissidents in exile and
specifically criticized the NCGUB, National Coalition Government for
Union of Burma, for lack of leadership and direction, under the title:
Time for Soul Searching.  It ended with the following statement:

 Before it can hope to beat the junta or persuade the stubborn generals
to come to the
            negotiating table, the opposition in exile needs to do some
serious soul-searching. It is
             time for Burmese dissidents to shed the weight of
ineffective policies and infuse the
             movement with new ideas if they wish to carry the ideals so
many have died for into the
             next century.

NCGUB made a long official response ending with the following statement:

NCGUB should be judged on its political policies and its achievements
according to its own objectives and not according to unrealistic
expectations. The wide acceptance by the world community of the
legitimate right of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD to govern Burma,
the recognition that the ethnic peoples of Burma have a role in
determining the future of Burma, the pariah status of the military
regime, and the continued strong international support for the whole
democracy movement are the NCGUB’ s achievements. By all means, let us
debate and try to improve our performance but let us do so based on
facts and in order to benefit the movement.

NCGUB is organizing a meeting on March 26th to discuss Burma issues. In
the spirit of improving the performance of the movement, shouldn’t we
have a second round of soul searching and open debate?

No one can deny the fact that it was a correct political move to form a
parallel government in exile, because Burmese generals refused to
acknowledge the outcome of the 1990 election. It opened the legitimacy
issue on who represented the Burmese people and most importantly, it
gave these peoples’ representatives a “political space” to gather
strength for more support for the NLD and galvanize all the opposition
forces to free the people from the military rule.

>From the start, the NCGUB and its leadership got stuck with the
legitimacy issue and never realized what an opportunity they had in
owning the “political space” as legitimate representatives of the people
and the power they had to organize the opposition and form a united
movement to support NLD leadership and execute their strategic
They made a strategic error to form an “Exclusive” movement rather than
“Inclusive” movement.

When the world and the leaders from the Western Democracies started to
notice Daw Aung San Su Kyi’s (DASSK) courage and approved their support
with granting her the Noble Peace Prize, the NCGUB was riding high by
just riding her coattails. Instead of transforming this political
capital towards building the political force, and at the same time
highlighting the legitimacy issue, the NCGUB and its leadership fell
into the trap of “Self Importance” and created a gated community for
them, without knowing that they were becoming the Project-based

This article tries to cover two parts in an attempt to analyze the
progress of the NCGUB:
   Diminishing Hopes.
   Missed Opportunities.

This article is meant for Open Debate, history and specific single
audience who can change the course of Burma history.

Diminishing Hopes

Because of the total control over the society by the military and their
systematic oppression against the population, especially against the
opposition, there was basically no “political space” for political
opponents. When the elections were held in 1990, it was not a surprise
that there was only a small pool to choose from for representation, and
in many instances, the norm became whom you know and whom you can trust
rather than the capacity or capability.

Right at their inception, some analysts suspected that the NCGUB didn't
have any other strategic goals other than to fight for the legitimate
right to represent Burma at the United Nations. As Daw Suu’s opposition
against the military rulers showed more courage, and the world noticed
her and as her support grew stronger among the Western democracies, the
NCGUB started to get noticed and received more help from her admirers
and supporters.  As International support grew wider and stronger, as a
de facto representative of DASSK and the NLD, the NCGUB tried to act as
a gatekeeper to all the projects that bear the name of “Burma”.
Although they claimed to be the opposite, there were ample incidents
where the NCGUB tried to block projects that were awarded to
organizations and individuals (both Burmese and non-Burmese) that were
out of sphere of their influence.  In one instance, the ongoing project
that was supporting the students inside the country was cancelled per
the request of the NCGUB. In the process, the NCGUB did not recognize
that the more help Burmese organizations received from the International
donor community, the more good could be done for the people. After all,
these are the people opposing the military rule and working for the same
goal. In addition, we should not forget that there are many democratic
liberators from all over the world seeking help from the same pool of
International donors and any dollar lost for Burma’s cause will go to
other countries causes.

During the past 13 years plus existence, while fighting for the
legitimacy and acting as pretenders to the throne, some members of the
NCGUB, if not all, came to think and feel
as government ‘ministers’, instead of members of the exile government.
All the projects that they had taken and produced were for “transition
period”, and how to conduct good governance aligned to Western thinking
and practices. Not a single document that described how to achieve the
final goal for change in government formation could be found. This begs
the question: Does the NCGUB expect Daw Suu and the NLD to present the
government on a platter?  Or do they believe that it is the sole
responsibility of the NLD and its leadership to deliver the goal of the
people: to change from military dictatorship to democracy.

In the end, the NCGUB has become a ‘Bureaucratic Entity’, preparing and
waiting for the transitional period

Until last year, the NCGUB had ignored the Burmese opposition community
and basically treated their partner NCUB as a distant cousin. Only when
it became clear that they were losing credibility and support among the
International donor community, they tried to reinvent themselves as
‘Grassroots Political Entity’, seeking help from the Burmese community
and working much closely with the NCUB.


Sanctions against the ruling military government, known as State Peace
And Development Council (SPDC), is one of the main pillars of the NLD
strategy to weaken the SPDC and to bring them to the negotiation table.
Yet from the start, the NCGUB’s involvement in persuading the Western
Democratic Governments to set up Sanction regimes was very weak. The
NCGUB did not recognize they needed to build Western grass-root support
systems to pressure their respective governments. Because of this gap,
Free Burma Coalition, FBC, came into existence and it caught fire with
the Pepsi campaign. If the NCGUB had been politically astute, or if they
had known ‘politics 101’, they would’ve understood that politics is the
art to mobilize the masses, and the FBC would never have had a chance to
fill in this huge political hole.

In addition to setting up grass-root campaigns and lobbying efforts to
promote SANCTION REGIMES against the SPDC in the Western Democracies,
what are missing are the Integrated Strategic directives for SANCTIONS.
If there was a body that was responsible to set strategies, analyze the
effects of these sanction regimes and act as an integrated HQ and
clearinghouse for sanctions, appropriate steps could be taken to fill
all the weaker links. Instead, there are several players running their
own sanctions campaigns with their own agendas and there are several
holes. Because of the UK Campaign, the UK had a very strong position
against the SPDC, but Germany and France had a very weak view towards
the sanctions. In addition, NCGUB's presence is a very weak one in the
EU after their separation from the ‘advisor’.

Apart from the occasional meetings between local communist officials and
NCUB leaders, the communication between the Chinese government and the
opposition forces are pretty much non-existent. The same goes for the
relationship with ASEAN countries. There were few meetings between
low-to-mid-level officials from ASEAN and some people from the Foreign
Relations Committee of the NCUB (NLD-LA).

Although NCGUB participates in the NCUB in the capacity of the MPU, and
the NCGUB’s Prime Minister also holds the position as a member of the
Presidium of the NCUB, one long time activist complained that the actual
participation of the NCGUB in the NCUB has been pretty passive for the
last 12 years.

It is pretty obvious that no one is looking at the big picture and no
one knows how to connect the dots.

There is a committee called the Technical Advisory Network that was
formed with several highly capable Burmese intellects. TAN is lead by
the Director of Burma Fund. They have compiled some impressive
documents, but again, its focus is on “Transition Period”. Instead, in
the opinion of some Burmese intellects, it should look into the effects
of SANCTIONS on the SPDC and should be compiling position papers for NLD
leadership or policy papers for NCGUB leadership, so they can advise the
U.S. or any other policy makers of friendly Western Democracies, in the
model of established Think Tanks.

After years of Sanctions, the SPDC today is in a much stronger position
than before because their strategists have found a way to by-pass
Western Sanctions regimes by strengthening regional trades with
neighboring countries. In addition to ASEAN and China, the SPDC has
successfully courted the South Asian countries for better relations and
Burma is fast becoming the bridge between ASEAN and South Asian trading
partners. SPDC even found a way to avoid US sanctions on financial
transactions by successfully plotting for two Burmese banks to join the
EU SWIFT network that includes Citibank and other major US banks.

To use an American football analogy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is like a
Quarterback who is working in a very tight space in a very short time
before the opposite team tackles her. Even though she has thrown the
ball in the right direction, to the right spot, it is the duty of the
receivers to catch the ball. Instead, our receivers are repeatedly not
running to catch the ball. This begs the question: Why are you still in
the game?


Another critical leg of opposition strategy is THE UNITED NATIONS, where
the NCGUB is supposed to show its presence as the legitimate
representatives of the people of Burma. The NCGUB had invested a large
amount of its resources in this institution where it placed a permanent
representative in New York. After years of close door meetings and
behind the scene maneuvers, there is not a tangible success to prove. No
one expects NCGUB to replace SPDC for Burma’s seat at the United
Nations; it is just a symbolic attempt to fight for the rightful
representation. After years of presence and hard work, NCGUB should have
systematically built a network of supporters and sympathizers to promote
NLD leadership requests that fit into the overall strategy for the

One of the options that many Burmese experts had suggested was to find
sponsors to take Burma’s case to the UN Security Council. Everyone knows
that the UN General Assembly has always been a debating society where
nothing gets done. The UN General Assembly had been debating the Burma
issue to death and after more than a decade no tangible and significant
solution had been achieved.

Making the rounds, presenting one’s issue and lobbying to the permanent
members and gathering support for the UN Security Council to take the
case is a very complicated and complex task.  NCGUB representatives must
have enough finesse and must have enough experience to artfully
articulate its position and views and debate in a smooth diplomatic
language. Because it is one of the most important world bodies, many
countries usually send their best, brightest and most experienced
diplomats to the United Nations.

There are many capable Burmese intellects that would fit well in this
position. If the NCGUB had enough foresight to pick an established
intellect like Dr Kyaw Win who knows the Western culture, complex
relationships and politics among nations and who can very well
articulate in diplomatic fashion, set goals and strategies, much
desirable results would have been achieved. But instead, following the
gated-community culture, NCGUB leadership chose an inexperienced
ex-student leader to represent them. During Ne Win era, there was a
famous phenomenon: Between a good person and able person, Ne Win always
favors a “good” person for loyalty. Ne Win might be gone but his
influence and thinking still dominates many Burmese.


Lobbying friendly governments to impose required SANCTIONS against the
SPDC is another critical leg in the SANCTION strategy of the NLD and its
leadership. Again, the NCGUB contribution is minimal and ineffective at
best. Lobbying United States Congress is very expensive. It cost the
SPDC nearly half a million dollars to attain a lobbying firm to
represent them for anti-SANCTION measures. Basically, Burmese opposition
was able to obtain an enormous result with minimal cost because US
political leadership had a great respect and admiration for Daw Aaung
San Suu Kyi. Open Society Institute plays a much more significant role
for SANCTIONS than the NCGUB.

It is not an assumption, but it has been clear to many players who are
involved or have interest in Burmese politics of the shortfalls of the
NCGUB. It is only fair to examine why they fail repeatedly:

The following factors should be considered:
   Poor Leadership skills
   Poor Management skills
   Lack of Critical thinking
   Lack of Creative thinking
 Poor Strategic thinking

In dealing and communication with NCGUB leadership, it becomes very
obvious that none of them exert a strong leadership and none possess
management skills. Even in American Presidential elections, when
campaigns are led by weak managers they become directionless and
political infighting overtook the effectiveness. Democratic Presidential
candidate John Kerry firing his campaign manager and replacing with
seasoned political operative is accredited to Kerry’s success in the
current Democratic Presidential Nominee process and is a good example.

In addition, most of the people in the leadership position of the NCGUB
have neither creative nor critical thinking skills. What is especially
lacking is the “strategic thinking skills”. The job of every leadership
is to show  ‘vision’, create opportunities, motivate the supporters and
show the road that can lead to success. During their 14 years of
existence, there is not a single document or speech that shows the
vision, position, thinking or strategic game plan to reach the final

Democratic Voice of Burma  (DVB) was created with the help of Norwegian
Burma Council and should be the pride of the NCGUB. If they had known
how to manage it properly, it could’ve been a very effective tool, not
only to educate the population inside Burma with news and articles, but
also to become a beacon to guide the population with strategic direction
to support Daw Suu and the NLD and how to conduct non-violence civil
disobedience acts. During the 1988 uprising, BBC played a critical role
in inciting population inside Burma. Rebellious Iranian TV from Los
Angeles was instructing Iranian people where to gather during people
demonstrations against the mullahs. In order to raise its level to
become a true beacon of freedom, DVB needs strong leadership and
management direction from the NCGUB. Instead DVB niche became the latest
news and their interviews and articles still lacked present critical
political thinking and strategic initiatives. Worse, a few years back
during their annual meeting DVB people demanded ‘independence’ because
they now feel they are ‘journalists’ who must prove their independence.
Do they want to become Burma FOX NEWS network: fair and balance?  This
is another showcase of poor management and leadership by the NCGUB team.

No matter what positions and titles they took in the past, many if not
all of NCGUB members are nothing but faceless bureaucrats who can only
shout long live Daw Suu and please support Daw Suu. They are indeed
“ineffective political Zombies”

The worst crime of the NCGUB is that they think they can deliver the
success with a few dozen ministers who have the right to carry the NLD
banner. Leaving no space for others, especially the ‘Student activists’.
They have no clue that politics is motivating people and creating
strength through “participatory politics”, and everyone deserves a role
to play.

Missed Opportunities

Several political analysts who took an interest in Burma like to compare
Burma to South Africa, because of the two moral giants of 20th century:
Nelson Mandela and Daw Suu. If we have to be honest to ourselves, that
is the only similarity we have between Burma and South Africa. But, we
don’t have to be

If one studies the history of the ANC movement, there were several
heroes who had sacrificed for the success of the ‘CAUSE’, before Mandela
came into the scene. Since it was formed in 1912, as the South African
Native National Congress and later changed its name to the African
National Congress in 1923, the ANC, was an established Political Engine
filled with seasoned and battle-hardened political operatives. They had
regional and division leaders and there were several wings within the
organization, which made ANC as a whole. There were Communists,
Nationalists and common citizens who wanted to be free from Apartheid.
Most importantly they had a ‘structured command’.

Also, there were several leaders that Nelson Mandela could rely upon,
both inside and outside Africa. An example was, Oliver Tambo. He was a
valuable leader who ran the ANC external operations and mobilized the
international opinion support. In a simple sense, O. R. as he was known,
was a political animal not a bureaucratic zombie.

What we are missing is an Oliver Tambo of Burma.

If NCGUB leadership had been seasoned political operatives, following
initiatives could be taken to support the NLD leadership and
complementing the struggle in the battle with SPDC right off the gate:
(14 years too late)

 Mobilizing the Opposition Force
 Creating Unity
 Setting goals and direction
 Creating an experience team for United Nations
 Creating an experience team for International Relationship
 Creating a Think Tank to tackle Strategic Issues
 Creating a Business Team to build Burmese owned companies
 Creating a Humanitarian team to handle Humanitarian issues
 Creating a SANCTIONS committee
 Creating a Human Resource Committee
 Creating a Media team
 Creating UG movement team

When the NCGUB was formed, everyone was full of HOPE. Enthusiasm filled
the air.
They were the elected representatives of the people headed by trusted
cousin of Daw Suu.
Everyone was waiting to be led.

In this environment, the first thing the NCGUB should’ve done was to
hold a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, in the name of unity, and they
could’ve formed an organization in some form of United Front. Let
everyone join. Let every one participate.

If they were politically astute they could easily build two
 Parallel Government in Exile
 United Political Force

If they were experienced political operatives like Oliver Tambo of ANC,
they could build the strength and force through UNITY, and once the
momentum gains traction, they can use this momentum for further
recruitment and grow the Opposition Forces.

They could form a separate alliance like the United Democratic Front
(where Desmond Tu Tu became the well know leader and spokesperson) for
groups that do not conform to the declared NLD policy of Non-Violence.
Example groups are the ABSDF, and other Ethnic organizations that are
pursuing the armed revolution. This would have two effects:
  Deniability for NLD Leadership
  Maintaining the Bond and relationship with other opposition groups

Other Critical Effects

International Arena

Failing to execute integrated policies and strategies for SANCTIONS,
UNITED NATIONS and INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT are unforgivable failures of
the NCGUB.
If they have enough foresight and understanding of International
relationships, opposition would not be in a big hole facing sanctions.
Present Sanctions regimes could not deliver the desired results and have
weakened the NLD's leadership position in facing the SPDC because the
opposition could not muster other neighboring countries, for example,
Japan and the EU to fully support US led sanction policies. One of the
major factors was that there were not enough effective efforts to build
relationships with the above-mentioned Nations by the opposition.

Human Resource Failure

One of the major dangers facing Burma as a country is Human Resource
failure. Because of a poor education system during Ne Win rule and the
purposely-neglected Education system under the SPDC rule, Burma’s
educated population is dwindling at a fast pace. At the border camps and
even among the refugees who had moved to the Western democracies, there
could and should be Burmese led NGOs to educate them or give them
assistance programs to proceed with their education. How many of the
students and refugees who came to the Western democracies could uplift
themselves and join the white-collar world?  If there was an arm of the
opposition led by the Burmese to open schools and education centers in
the border areas, and if they took care of these issues, this would be
such help for Burma. This is where many of the International donors had
a soft heart and yet no one in the NCGUB leadership could think to help
the Burmese exile population. There are several benefits to the types of
programs where Burmese with better education and experience will be able
to contribute for the future. It will be such an effective organization
tool to attract and organize many activists under one roof.

Creative Initiatives

One of the main problems facing Burma at present time is not only
oppression.  Poverty, HIV-AIDS and healthcare are totally neglected by
the ruling SPDC regime. Some of the SANCTIONS provisions do affect the
struggling poor. Many International Organizations and United Nations
wanted to help more, but because of the opposition they face from the
pressure groups they could not. And the only way to reach these
suffering people is through SPDC. It is a catch 22.  After more than 15
years, the situation begs a question: Who is looking out for the poor
and neglected?

To highlight the neglect of SPDC and to help the Burmese poor, there may
be a solution.

If the NCGUB leadership can obtain permission from the leader, a
non-political foundation should be formed in the name of our leader
General Aung San to help the poor. Let’s say for instance, ‘AUNG SAN
FOUNDATION FOR POOR’. If Daw Suu will permit this idea and contribute a
small amount for a startup fee, and she and she alone should select any
credible and trusted Burmese citizens with experience to lead this
organization and announce this to be a totally ‘apolitical’ organization
with the simple goal to help the poor.

This foundation would build and run schools, build medical clinics for
the poor and take care of HIV-AIDS patients, as well as educating people
in how to stop spreading this terrible disease.  It can even organize
“Community Banking” where selecting community leaders and lending money
to the community rather than individuals and teaching the poor personal
financial responsibilities. Most importantly to provide them with the
source of lending. This is getting popular and gaining traction in some
developing countries and it can replace the “Chitties of Burma”.

One can argue that the SPDC will never let it happen since they will
never let go of their tight  “control”. If that is the case, then
Burmese opposition can gather international pressure and it will create
a venue for everyone to start a pressure campaign. This is not politics,
but a genuine humanitarian program to help the suffering poor.

If the SPDC does not block this, it will give the International
community and donors the go-ahead to help the real people who are
suffering. It will also provide an opportunity for the population to
learn more from the Western world about the value of democracy.

This is how HAMAS built their network and how they won the hearts of the
people when PLO became inefficient and corrupted.

NCGUB Long Road towards Irrelevancy

NCGUB is like a six year old who inherited a Ferrari.

Daw Suu is a “Moral Giant” in today’s global scene.
Through her strong beliefs, courage, determination and steadfast
opposition against the military dictatorship, she has rightfully gained
her place as one of the 20th century’s moral leaders, among Nelson
Mandela, Dalai Lama, Jimmy Carter to name a few.

Giving a chance to hold the banner of the leader is not only an honor,
it is also a ‘power’.  If only the NCGUB and its leaders had learned the
basics of politics, the Burmese opposition status might be very
different. After 14 years of wasting time on projects that are
fundamentally preparing to take control of the government after the fall
of the military government, the credibility of the NCGUB among Burmese
communities and International communities is degrading fast towards
irrelevancy. The assistance the NCGUB is receiving today from
International donors, compared to the status of what Daw Suu received in
the world is pretty pathetic and embarrassing. It is an embarrassment to
Daw Suu and Burma that the National Endowment for Democracy has reduced
its support significantly and the support from the EU is waning.

Voodoo Politics, Political Zombies and Aristide Democrats

Because of this lost support among international communities, the NCGUB
is now trying to build the grass-root support among the Burmese
community. They are trying to showcase Ft Wayne to sell as the biggest
gathering of Burmese. What many did not know was that major players from
Ft Wayne boycotted the meeting and nearly half of the attendees are Mon
nationals from the area. There are now three supporting groups behind
the NCGUB: Half a dozen ex-students from Ft Wayne, about a dozen or two
supporters from the New York area and some from Washington D.C. area.

For many of them, ‘democracy’ means BSPP era democracy, where the
essence is to get rid of anyone who proposes or presents ideas different
from them. They are praying for the release of Daw Suu without any
long-term or short term thinking on how to obtain Daw Suu’s release and
for the change of the military regime. Demonstrations and giving
interviews are their favorite activities. They love to curse the SPDC
and their followers on the Internet and in Burmese political forums,
writing poems and praising each other. They have been behaving in this
manner for the past 14 years without even realizing that they are moving
in a circle and getting no where. They don’t know that without
structured, organized, effective and integrated movement, the SPDC can
always maintain the advantage. Naturally they have been coined as:
Voodoo Politics and Political Zombies.

On February 26 2004, the VOA interviewed General Bo Mya, a long time
leader of the Karens. Answering the question on the KNU relationship
with other organizations. General Bo Mya mentioned that the NCGUB
considered the KNU as rebels and themselves as government. In his
response, the NCGUB minister lectured the VOA interviewer that there are
certain questions that should not be asked and that General Bo Mya
should let P.R. experts handle the media. They still do not understand
the fact that in a democracy, even Presidents and Prime Ministers were
not spared from difficult and embarrassing questions, especially from
the hostile press. In today’s media environment there is no taboo
subject and no one practices self-censorship anymore. And, of course
there are Committee Dictators and Forum Dictators who can easily become
street thugs like Aristide Democrats.

Time & Space

Just like in Astrophysics, “Time” and “Space” are important phenomena in
Politics. Throughout their rule of 40 years, Burmese military men knew
very well of political space and timing. Like they had done with every
major opposition leader before her, military leaders created a very
tight space for Daw Suu and NLD leadership. The military game plan is an
open book. Taking advantage of the full control they have over the
population and knowing well the weakness of the opposition, they play
the ‘game’ to prolong their rule.

To be honest and truthful, Burma opposition is like a Hollywood set for
Western movies. At the front, the set has all the salons and bars and
the sheriff’s office: the view of the small town main street. But in the
back of the set there is nothing. There is Daw Suu, up in the front, but
at the back there is nothing. Even NLD could not build an effective
opposition because the SPDC did not allow any political space. Once they
put Daw Suu under house arrest and detained NLD leaders and crushed the
party activities, the opposition became close to non-existence. When the
SPDC releases Daw Suu, once again they will allow her to rebuild the
NLD, but only under a controlled environment. The SPDC had arrested all
the political operatives they deem dangerous, and those who could advise
Daw Suu on a permanent basis. Basically, SPDC has denied Daw Suu a
‘Political Space’.

SPDC is also playing the game of attrition with ‘time’. NLD Central
Committee members are getting old and by blocking political space, there
is only a very small pool of leaders to groom and replace.

The NCGUB and the leaders in exile have the Political space and time to
create the force and if they were smart and politically astute, they
could help to form the UG movement inside the country by grooming and
training the next generation of leaders and recycle them back into the
country to strengthen the movement. Instead of taking their own
initiatives, taking charge and showing their leadership, none of the
NCGUB leaders have political courage to make any important decisions
without instructions from the NLD leadership. It is fuzzy logic. It is
almost impossible for any leader in detention and isolation to pass any

Burma Strategy Group

Free Burma Coalition was born because the NCGUB left a big political
space, failing to form pressure groups for sanctions with grass-root
support. Similarly there is a big gap at the present time to help find
political space for NLD leadership. There is a strategy shift among the
ASEAN countries where they could not ignore the problems of Burma.  As
ASEAN countries became economically stronger and their importance on the
global theater became more defined, they are learning that they have
more say as a ‘Collective Voice’. In dealing with powerhouses such as
the United States and the EU, Burma becomes a stumbling block. ASEAN is
not a new kid anymore. ASEAN is growing fast and becoming an adolescent,
and they have this gangster cousin (SPDC) in their midst. Also, Burma
will take her turn as a chairmanship of ASEAN in 2006 and some analysts
feel strongly that ASEAN would like to avoid any embarrassment.

Some see this as an opportunity.  SPDC will be pressured to find a
solution. Some are worried that Daw Suu and the NLD will be sidelined by
the SPDC and will find their own solution with other groups. Some
decided that clear but delicate message should be sent to the SPDC and
that no solution could be genuine and lasting without the participation
of Daw Suu and the NLD, while not losing the opportunity to find a
solution for the country. At the same time Daw Suu should be confident
that only she has the key to the solution and there are supporters who
will understand when the leader has to make difficult and complex

Burma Strategy Group is a matrix group formed of many experienced and
educated individuals of different personalities and backgrounds. Many
had a long history of fighting the military dictatorship. The common
denominator is that all want to find the ‘solution’ that can end the
suffering of the people. Many understand the value of Time and Space.


NCGUB’s response to Irrawaddy was: “not to expect unrealistic
expectation.” Its goals do not reach beyond its primary objective: to be
the exile government to fight for legitimacy.

Even if this is the sole objective, within 14 years of existence, the
NCGUB has failed miserably. Because the NCGUB is carrying the banner of
the NLD leadership, NCGUB’s failure became Burma’s failure. Many have
lost hopes and have become disillusioned. Many capable and able Burmese
are losing interest in the fight because the NCGUB could not deliver
direction or leadership and people are losing HOPE.

NCGUB has invited people for another meeting on Burma to be held on the
26th of March 2004.  How many forums and how many panel discussions had
we been through for all these 14 years without any tangible and desired

Daw Suu and NLD leadership is still in detention. Fifty millions people
are still suffering. The brigade that could have saved the leaders and
the country is charging towards an opposite direction. Sounds of the
charging brigade are fading away. Will this be known as the 20th century
“Charge of the Light Brigade”? Or will historians coin him as “Aristide
of Burma”?

(The Author, Bo Bo Kyaw Nyein, is a member of Burma Strategy Group. )

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