After living and working within the Burmese community, visiting temples and celebrating Thingyan I found myself in an interesting position. The issue of Senator Jim Webb’s visit to Burma came into focus and though I disagreed with the lifting of sanctions I also found myself defending the senator from angry some expatriates from Burma. What will this do to my image? They were more saddened and felt betrayed after learning about his latest trip and listening to his speech about rewarding the regime and frankly my boxers were in a knot as well.
Though the good senator and I do not see eye to eye on the sanctions issue that does not mean I hate the guy for he is truly an iconic American hero who proved his mettle as a Marine in the jungles of Vietnam. With a Navy Cross, Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars and 2 Purple hearts he has more than proven his courage and valor in the heat of combat and earned his place in American politics. In fact, if he were in contention for the Oval Office he would have my vote hands down for he is a true America hero who spilled his blood in the defense of his fellow countrymen. Prior military service should be a prerequisite for commander and chief anyway. But that’s another story.
In researching his record I found a man who has served his nation in many capacities and spent a lifetime in the service of the less fortunate. Senator Webb is a cut above other higher profile senators and congressmen who’ve used their positions to commit criminally abhorrent activities in recent years. Some of his colleagues deserve the Benedict Arnold Award for their conduct while in office. Such is not the case for Sen. Webb but alas there is a bug in the ointment when it comes to the sanction issue in Burma. In all reality the issue of sanctions in Burma is a two pronged sword writhe with contradictions, misinformation, fear and distrust.
On one hand it is said sanctions have worked since they did force the junta’s hand in offering change. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy were allowed to participate in the recent bi-election winning 43 of the 44 seats in Parliament. President Thein Sein has become the face of reform and the people of Burma have begun to see and experience some of these changes. Movement within Burma has eased as the government struggles to meet the demands needed to have sanctions lifted.
On the other hand lifting sanctions would give the general population of Burma opportunities and a chance to prosper once again. It was well noted by friends who commute to Burma that only the average citizen bore the brunt of sanctions. The junta was well financed part and parcel by international corporations who never ceased operations in spite of sanctions imposed by the United Nations. In essence the sanctions were a failure from this perspective.
Asian politics can not be addressed simply from two sides. Much like Hindu Goddess Durga with many arms there are more hands or sides to consider in this equation. On yet another hand there are over 900 political prisoners still held in prisons around Burma who have yet to see daylight. The fact drug dealers and murderers were given amnesty over political prisoners is still a very real point of contention. Though the Karen signed a ‘landmark’ ceasefire this is not the first landmark ceasefire the Karen signed in the last year. According to many Karen I’ve spoken to they simply ask why this ceasefire is any different than the others the junta violated. People still receive word from home about atrocities being committed by Burmese soldiers and the ink is still not dry on the latest agreement.
Another issue is the contention the 2008 Constitutional Referendum was a clear violation of the constitution in the first place. The ballot initiative was marred by wholesale fraud, intimidation and death. But it did pave the way for the election of 2010 once it was ratified. The fact the constitution gave the minority military parliament member’s the final say regardless of majority votes further called into question the validity of reform. The fiasco with America bonehead John William Yethaw who allegedly swam Inya Lake to Suu Kyi’s abode near election time caused her to be conveniently ousted from contention. This raised many eyebrows casting further doubts in the validity of the election. To make matters more convoluted was the fact General Than Shwe ‘retired’ his top generals to form political parties and run for office in the new ‘civilian’ government. What was the point since no matter who was to be elected as president or parliament they still ultimately required approval from Naypyidaw via the minority seats held by the military.
As Senator Webb struggles to find a solution to the issues of Burma it is more than clear he is faced with a daunting challenge because there are more factors to this issue than I have room to divulge in one story. Dare I mention the 10’s of millions of Chinese who claim Kachin alliances and blood lineage who are watching intently? This has become a very real hotbed of contention deep within the Chinese Communist Party and could possibly lead to internal strife as the world, including China makes, their move on Kachinland. There are no ‘two sides’ to this story since other alliances date back thousands of years. I also find myself with ancestral ties that lead me back to Kachinland. China is learning the hard way some alliances run deeper and further back than their pseudo Confucius ideological principle. As the west chooses a side it is clear they are not aware of ‘other side’s’ that must be considered when it comes to lifting sanction and the fate of Kachinland. Turning ones back on the Kachin may cause animosities from cultures they are not fully cognizant of.
And if this were not enough to contend with, let’s toss in the religion factor. We have the Buddhists on one side and Christians on another it would appear. Add the Muslims, Catholics and other dogma’s into Burma’s hodgepodge of differences and the whole concept of democracy gets totally lost in the quagmire. How can any side or dogma purport the cause for democracy, even disciplined democracy when they are diametrically opposed to dogmas other than their own? Surely none of these ideological principles justify the destruction of faiths or ideologies from another, but blood still flows regardless. Ancient tribal rivalries throughout Burma and adjoining regions are another factor that plays heavily into the matrix of this nation’s complex equation. Stateside conflicts between ethnic and religious groups rage out of sight from American eyes but they do offering a microcosm of what is happening in Burma if one is fortunate or unfortunate enough to witness them.
I have friends and family from all faiths and ideological principles from Burma. Some travel back and fourth from Burma while others are in constant communications with loved ones on a daily basis. Notably I have friends and family within the Jinghpaw community and I am privy to what is really happening directly from Kachinland, media blackout or not. I also have friends within the Karen, Mon, Shan, Bama and other ethnic groups who share experiences and news from within Burma. Talk about a bi-polar response to the lifting of sanctions. For every point there is another equally valid counter point until I bring up the issue of the killing of innocent civilians. That throws a monkey wrench in even the most elaborate argument to lift sanctions, well except for a small minority who cling to tribal differences.
Within my tribal tradition there is no such thing as a ‘greater good’ since there is no excuse for the justification of murdering one culture over another. Eugenics, ethnic cleansing and genocide are not in my vocabulary nor acceptable within my primitive indigenous ideology. My people already experienced genocide as well as the non response from an ambivalent world. What was the greater good in killing off the indigenous people of the America’s, Manifest Destiny? I look at religion the same way, just because someone follows an ideological principle other than mine is no justification for allowing them to be sacrificed for a greater good, it is just an excuse.
So my position is really quite simply, as long as Kachin blood is being spilled I have a moral and ethnical obligation to stand my ground on the sanctions issue since I can’t find justification in their murder. Some of them are my relations and I would be a fool not to stand by them in their hour of need. Just so people can have more prosperity and a few extra bucks in their pockets is no justification to allow for people to be killed, Christian or Buddhist. Material gain over human life is the impetus of butchers not civilized human beings. If the junta really wants to show the world Burma is truly changing they should cease killing Kachin and other ethnic groups and respect their autonomous territory. But tossing the Kachin to the Wolves for the sake of commerce is morally wrong by Buddhist and other dogmatic principles. Profiteering from such a lapse in moral judgment would be nothing more than accepting blood money.
If I could only bend Senator Webb’s ear for one second I know between the Jinghpaw, Jim and Thein Sein, they could come up with a plan to lift sanctions that would bare fruit for everyone. Of course the release of the 900+ political prisoners would need to be addressed as well. How could these imprisoned people have been forgotten anyway? There is no question Thein Sein’s government would show face and a real move towards democracy if the issue of Kachinland and the political prisoners were addressed in earnest and expeditiously. Burma would regain its crown as the hub of commerce once again and the need to horde scant riches would not be necessary. The alliances Jim could foster with the Jinghpaw would be more far reaching than he could possibly imagine within the Asian world. And he would be recognized in Kachinland for the gallantry he is noted for. I could hook him up if he wanted.
But for now I guess I will continue pee in the sandbox of world politics.
Your Devil’s Advocate
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