“We should do something.”
The Global Affairs session on Tuesday, the 23rd of October was intended to be a little different from usual Global Affairs session. The purpose of the session was not only to discuss an important situation that is affecting our neighboring country, but also propose viable solutions for the problem in Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar). Some of the discussions that take place in Global Affairs sessions are usually just discussing global conflicts from a very superficial perspective. The aim of this session was to look at the issue from a deeper level and try and understand the different perspectives relating to the situation in Myanmar. The complexity of the issue, I thought, can only be understood once we start looking at possible solutions. During the small group discussions, it was evident that all of us seemed to disagree with everything. No. Military intervention is bad. Look at what is happening in Iraq. But yes, we must do something. No. diplomatic pressures don’t work. The government couldn’t care less. And ha. Economic sanctions? Don’t you think that would only cause more trouble for the poor? That won’t work. But yes, we must do something. There were some interesting solutions proposed during the discussions. While these solutions are obviously open to criticism, they were solutions that were proposed by students and teachers as a result of the discussion. There were four main solutions that were thrashed left and right by the people present.
The first proposed solution was military intervention. The United Nations (UN) should deploy troops to go into Myanmar to ensure peace and security in and around Myanmar. However, the UN is an international body that maintains its policy of not breaching the sovereignty of any country. This essentially means that the issue in Myanmar is an internal matter and should not be debated at the UN unless it threatens the peace and security of the world. This was the second solution. The UN can’t do anything since it is an issue that concerns only the people of Myanmar. Therefore, we must do nothing. However, is that possible when you hear about cases of Human Rights violations in Myanmar? What can be done about this issue without taking either of the two extremes? There were two other answers to that: diplomatic pressures and economic sanctions. We condemn it. Envoys from different countries ‘condemn’ what is going on in Burma. The question still exists: does it make a difference? To some, that’s how far we can go without breaching the sovereignty of the country. To others, this wasn’t enough. It was proposed that economic sanctions would be the most effective solution because that would impose a threat on the military regime in Burma. The criticism for this solution was that it will only affect the poor because the military could increase the petrol prices even more than 500% [it has already increased the price by 500%]. Funding the rebel groups or providing the people of Burma with humanitarian aid could result in additional weapons in the country. Also, this could be completely unfruitful unless a feasible method of “channeling” this money to the people is formulated.
Therefore, instead, enforcing arms and weapons embargoes on Burma could be a possible solution, in which case no country would supply the military regime in Burma with weapons. This would directly affect the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the military government, since only the SPDC uses weapons and violence. The rebel groups, including the Buddhist monks, do not use weapons and would not harm them in any way. The problem with this, though, is that it needs to be raised in the UN Security Council and convincing all the five superpowers to pass this resolution would be the challenging part. Although the USA, the UK and France promote sanctions on Myanmar, China opposes the move (for ideological reasons). The problem lies in tackling China and preventing from sanctions to be vetoed in the Security Council.
The Human Rights violations occurring in Myanmar should be the supreme reason for some sort of international action to take place. Are these solutions viable? If a neighbor such as India refuses to implement economic sanctions on Myanmar, can other countries take any effective action? Is the UN a body that is capable of taking such actions? Stay tuned for the next Global Affairs session. 😉
– United World College Student Magazine –