Solidarity for Democracy

The political crisis in Burma is a profound learning lesson on how the demography of international politics has changed as a result of globalism. Since the end of the cold war we have seen the emergence of increased alliances amongst power blocs and the formation of regional bodies, all with the intent of protecting and promoting the interests of the member states, in the name of peace and security. Over the years while the traditional understanding of state sovereignty has undergone some primary changes, the state system has succeeded and strengthened its abilities to keep its core intact through the regional alliances, which in turn legitimizes its relevance.

The response of the world governments to the Burmese crisis is quite appalling. The lack of a determined response from India, the world largest democracy, other than a timid call to the junta to expedite national reconciliation has not gone unnoticed. For while the government of India has been a support for pro-democracy movements in Burma, it simultaneous has maintained close relations with the junta, and with increased economic interests, the balance of favor has tilted. With India making a paradigm shift from its Westward approach to the Look East policy, the strategic importance of Burma as a mutual beneficiary and partner is quite imperative; and one that India simply can’t ignore. It’s a point in case of state pragmatism, where interest prevails over principles.   

Similarly, Burma’s inclusion as an ASEAN member was influenced more by economic factors rather than political factors. The assumption to distinguish the two factors are however very tragic, because economic and political factors cannot be separated; and are in fact interdependent factors. Therefore with ASEAN countries choosing to build its relationship on economic interest are now faced with a political dilemma that would have both political and economic repercussions. Countries with high economic stakes with Burma, such as Japan, Singapore and Malaysia to assume a more significant role in the Burmese crisis is of great necessity. Of them all, China would be the determining factor. But here again, interest prevails over democratic ideals.

Economic sanctions by the United States, Britain and other European countries over the past decade has had an enormous impact on Burma, yet not sufficient enough to force the junta to hasten the process to democracy. Therefore, there is rightly an air of skepticism over the recent call for stronger sanctions. In fact some experts question whether sanctions hurt people more than rulers. “It actually plays into the military’s hands,” said Tom Green, executive director of Pacific Strategies and Assessments. “In the long term, sanctions end up hurting and stunting the growth of the very classes that could successfully challenge them.” Nonetheless, considering that US along with other western countries too have interests in Burma, its safest option was to call for stronger sanction, without getting itself directly involved, which could jeopardize its primary interests. 

The people who are on the ground, protesting and putting their lives on the line cannot do more than what they are doing. Neither can anyone ask them to do more than what they have already done. The ones that have miserably failed to live up to their principles are the very countries and world leaders that have raved about their commitment to democracy and world peace. Tragically, this is just another indication of how states and governments put national interest over human security and democracy. In the end, the realist would say that international politics is nothing more than the art of procuring and protecting one’s interest; while everything else is negotiable. In the end, the people are the real casualties. They are after all dispensable in the name of national interest and security.

However not all is lost yet. If only people all around the world stand up together in solidarity with the people of Burma, and persuade upon their governments to take a more active and positive position in the pursuit for justice and democracy in Burma, the voices of the democracy movement will prevail. Just as globalism played an important role in forming alliances between different governments, it is essential that the values of interdependence must be the yeast in establishing and developing critical solidarity between all peoples of the world. The Burmese crisis after all is only a manifestation of what struggling people all around the world are experiencing; and hence the victory of the democratic movement in Burma must represent the triumph of humankind over state oppression.