It is a truism that anti-authoritarian movements and organizations tend to mirror their opponents in thinking, modes of operation and political practices, and especially to become intolerant of any view that differs from that of the leadership. And indeed, in Burma’s case, the choice to elevate Aung San Suu Kyi to the status of icon for democracy has had important and potentially fatal limitations, for both the domestic and international components of the democracy campaign.Continue Reading →
Naypyitaw, the new capital of Myanmar, is built on a monumental scale. Nowhere is this truer than in the buildings of the legislature.
The hall of the House of Nationalities—one of the two chambers of the parliament—is grandiose. It is entirely public space: halls, corridors, meeting rooms, banqueting rooms, staircases. There are few […]Continue Reading →
The coincidence of two news items about Burma/Myanmar today demand brief commentary: 1) International Crisis Group is honoring President U Thein Sein at its annual dinner, and 2) Human Rights Watch released a damning report about assaults against Burma’s Rohingya minority.
The most common way that atrocities against civilians end is when the perpetrators themselves […]Continue Reading →
A theme that recurred throughout the seminar was the distinction between two kinds of activism: one, principled solidarity with the people affected, pursuing solutions that they themselves define; and two, advocacy for a U.S. (or other western nation) policy response, that frequently defines success in terms of adopting a policy, rather than resolving the situation in the country concerned.Continue Reading →
This time, the dominant Western advocacy no longer deems the promotion of human rights, beyond the rhetoric of Western and Burmese officials, as something affordable. But the ugly realities of human insecurity as lived by the great majority of Burmese Buddhist farmers, Rohingya Muslims, and Burmese Christians are difficult, if not impossible to address. So, Western advocacy is experiencing a Buddhist turn for the first time in the past twenty-five years: it’s all in the state of mind. If you can’t change the reality, change your perception, and the way you frame it, especially when doing so advances your national interest, however defined – hence, President Obama and his showcasing Burma as ‘a success story’ of his foreign policy.Continue Reading →
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