Myanmar Dodges Human Rights Bullet With US-EU Help

03.05.2017 Author: Joseph Thomas

563423423423Myanmar appears poised to escape international scrutiny of its vast and expanding human rights abuses targeting its Rohingya minority.

US State Department-funded media platform, The Irrawaddy, would report in an article titled, “Burma set to Dodge Full UN Probe on Arakan State,” that:

Burma looks set to escape an international investigation into alleged atrocities in Arakan State, after the European Union decided not to seek one at the UN Human Rights Council, a draft resolution seen by Reuters showed on Wednesday. 

The UN said in a report last month that the army and police had committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims in northern Arakan state and burned villages in a campaign that may amount to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

The article would also reveal the role the European Union played in avoiding the UN probe, stating:

EU diplomats told a meeting on Tuesday that they preferred using an existing mechanism that had received good cooperation and access from Burma’s government, rather than a new approach, and to give more time to the domestic process.

The article indicates, however, that existing mechanisms lack transparency, independence and thus legitimacy. It also notes that other nations, including Ukraine and Syria, have not escaped similar probes.

Why Myanmar is “Special” 

The Southeast Asian state of Myanmar’s political transition last year which saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy come to power and herself assume office as the first “State Counsellor of Myanmar,” was the culmination of decades of US-European regime change efforts.

The extent of this support is documented in immense detail in the 2006 Burma Campaign UK report, “Failing the People of Burma?” (.pdf). It states:

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED – see Appendix 1, page 27) has been at the forefront of our program efforts to promote democracy and improved human rights in Burma since 1996. We are providing $2,500,000 in FY 2003 funding from the Burma earmark in the Foreign Operations legislation. The NED will use these funds to support Burmese and ethnic minority democracy-promoting organizations through a sub-grant program. The projects funded are designed to disseminate information inside Burma supportive of Burma’s democratic development, to create democratic infrastructures and institutions, to improve the collection of information on human rights abuses by the Burmese military and to build capacity to support the restoration of democracy when the appropriate political openings occur and the exiles/refugees return.

While many laud Western support for the supposed democratic movements within Myanmar’s political landscape, one of the keys to genuine democracy is self-determination, a concept completely negated by foreign funding and involvement within a nation’s internal politics.

Suu Kyi’s political party, street fronts and a vast network both within Myanmar and abroad of foreign-funded organisations posing as nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have incrementally undermined and displaced Myanmar’s institutions and political circles of power.

Since taking power, rhetoric regarding human rights, democracy and freedom evaporated as many of the abuses used as excuses by the US and Europe to meddle in Myanmar’s internal affairs to begin with, expanded rather than were abated by their political proxies.

Why Myanmar’s Human Rights Abuses Remain “Sort of” in the News 

While US and European organisations continue to place pressure on Myanmar’s current leadership, it is now abundantly clear that such pressure is used as geopolitical leverage against the government in pursuit of concessions and in no way constitutes a genuine interest in protecting human rights.

Among the concessions US and European interests seek, includes Myanmar’s divestment from its ties to neighbouring China. US-European interests are engaged in Myanmar’s internal politics not simply to enter, monopolise and profit from the nation’s markets, population and natural resources, but as part of a much larger, regional agenda aimed at encircling China with a hostile unified Southeast Asian front to hinder Beijing’s rise as a region and international superpower.

China has invested in a series of large infrastructure and develop projects within Myanmar, as well as projects aimed at securing China’s trade routes from Asia to Africa, Europe and beyond. China’s proximity to Myanmar gives it a distinct advantage that allows it to continue making inroads despite US proxies holding power. Dissuading Myanmar’s political leadership from building further ties at current or accelerated rates is done through a variety of methods, including the use of disingenuous human rights advocacy used as a form of geopolitical blackmail.

The severity, duration and scope of human rights investigations, or whether they happen at all, depends entirely on any given state’s obedience to US and European powers which hold a monopoly on what is essentially weaponised human rights advocacy. Exposing this weaponisation of human rights advocacy is essential in both preserving a nation’s sovereignty and protecting legitimate, essential human rights advocacy.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.